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Hulu and AT&T plan to run ads when you pause videos

You can expect the not-so-welcome additions in 2019.
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AP Photo/Dan Goodman

Companies have previously dabbled in ads that appear when you pause videos, but they're about to come roaring back in the streaming era. Variety has learned that Hulu and AT&T both expect to introduce pause ads sometime in 2019. The companies suggest that they'll play short videos whenever you stop for a break, hopefully catching you in those fleeting moments before you head to the kitchen for a snack. AT&T's Matt Van Houten likened it to a screensaver that could run in the background in between viewings.

It's not clear which AT&T services would include these ads, although they'd be feasible on both online services like DirecTV Now and WarnerMedia's upcoming offering as well as conventional TV. Van Houten teased the prospect of interactive ads that could show more information on request.

Whether or not people take to the idea is another story. Many internet video subscribers sign up with the expectation they'll see few or no ads, and they balk at even the slightest hint that more advertising is coming -- just look at the backlash when Netflix tried running promos between episodes. There's also the very nature of the ads. You're likely pausing a video to either leave the room or obtain some quiet while you do something else (say, answer a child's question). How many people will be paying attention? Ads might help keep service prices down, but only if enough people actually watch them.

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