Yep – it's what you think it is. When a viewer pauses their video, an ad starts playing. Pause Ads.

Pause ads are non-intrusive. It's not a pesky advertisement video which automatically starts playing after 5 minutes of playback, nor a banner ad which is covering the content you're trying to watch. It's a advertisement filling the void when you hit pause – when waiting for your partner, pouring a drink or taking a break from watching. Non-linear (banner) advertisements are the most popular pause ads, but linear (video) ads are also an option.


The odds are unlikely you've seen pause ads in action, unless you are a Hulu or DIRECTV/AT&T TV Now subscriber, because DIRECTV owns patent US 2002/0100041 A1.

US 2002/0100041 A1
Method and system for pause ads

A system and method for placing ads on a client-side video replay system during a pause mode.

In 2000/2001, ReplayTV's  Scott Rosenberg (now SVP / GM Platform Business at Roku, and before that, SVP / GM Advertising at Roku) and Matthew Self file/invent patent US 2002/0100041 A1 (and/or its predecessor).
In 2001, SONICblue acquires ReplayTV at $120M.
In 2003, D&M Holdings acquires ReplayTV (through SONICblue's bankrupty) at $36M.
In 2007, DIRECTV acquires the ReplayTV assets owned by D&M Holdings.
In 2015, AT&T acquires DIRECTV at $67.1B.
In 2016, Warner Media / Times Warner acquires a 10% stake in Hulu at $583M.
In 2018, AT&T acquires Warner Media at $85B.
In 2019, Hulu buys back AT&T's stake of 10% in Hulu at $1.43B.

In January of 2019, Hulu starts testing Pause Ads. These ads are banner ads – so an image instead of a video. In November of 2019, AT&T TV Now starts doing Pause Ads. According to an article at, Hulu viewers pause their content over 30 millions times a day. Hulu is close to $700M dollar in ad revenue in 2019, as reported by MediaPost, versus $1.3B in subscriber revenue.

Somewhere during this shaking of hands, Hulu's must've gotten the OK from AT&T to do Pause Ads. (I guess. I'm sure I got a few things wrong in there, but hey.)

Do the math, and this patent traveled through 150 billion dollars – hence the clickbait title 👺.

Diagram illustrating how the Pause Ads patent moved through companies.


This article's initial purpose was to inform readers on the existence of pause ads, and to provide a reference implementation. It's the type of feature (request) you hear about every so often, but don't see out in the wild.

After a bit of Googling, it seemed like aforementioned patent was protecting this ad-scheduling mechanism. That's a bummer. So, for pure educational purposes, and relying on fair use as a defense, a code project and demo was crafted.
(That being said: if someone from AT&T/Hulu sends lawyers, I'll 🐔 out, and bring the project & demo offline.)

Hulu uses non-linear (banner) ads, and not linear (video) ads. Let's do it differently than Hulu, and use linear ads.

  1. Our implementation is in HTML5/JavaScript, and waits for the pause event. (It also accepts pause events due to seeks.)
  2. Once a pause (or seek) is initiated by a viewer, a 10s timer starts and announces that an ad is being scheduled in 10...9.....3...2...1.
  3. During this announcement, the viewer can still cancel the advertisement. (Bring power to the user!)
  4. As long as the viewer doesn't skip the current ad, ads will continue to be scheduled.


🤷🏻‍♀️ Thoughts?


The concept of pause ads is an interesting strategy to generate new revenue. Creating a strategy around it, implementing it, and making it user-friendly is the bigger challenge. Will you go for video ads or banner ads? Do you announce your ads to your viewers (and offer them a way out) or do you instantly start presenting the ads? How easy should it be to go back to regular video playback?

One could claim that the legality of pause ads might be an issue due to the patent which DIRECTV/Hulu holds. However, Hulu isn't the only service doing pause ads, so they probably don't use the patent as ammunition in legal battles. TV4 Play (Sweden) and Seven (Australia) experiment with [non-linear] pause ads, and I find it hard to believe that there aren't others out there.

Head over to to join the discussion.


Pause Ad Patent

Pause Ad by Hulu and DIRECTV