Recent reports suggest that Apple has started focusing its living room efforts on a cable-friendly set-top box, instead of the long-rumored television set. But the Cupertino company is said to still be negotiating with major cable companies.

Talks are reportedly moving slowly, as cable providers are extremely hesitant to allow Apple into their industry. And this probably won’t help their cause. The iPad-makers have just been awarded a patent for skipping commercials…

Engadget points to the patent, which was granted to Apple today by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Here’s an excerpt:

“A method for seamlessly switching between two content sources, comprising: receiving a first stream from a first media source, wherein the first media stream comprises a first plurality of media items; sequentially playing back the first plurality of media items of the received first media stream; determining that an upcoming media item of the first plurality of media items of the received first media stream is not of interest to a user; identifying second media that is of interest to the user; and switching playback from the first media stream to the identified second media when the upcoming media item is received. “

So essentially this allows a user to seamlessly switch between two media streams, when one of them becomes uninteresting.

Possible scenarios:

“The method of claim 1, wherein at least one of the media items of the first plurality of media items comprises one of a music segment of a broadcast, a talk segment of a broadcast, a sports segment of a broadcast, a traffic segment of a broadcast, a weather segment of a broadcast, and an advertisement segment of a broadcast.”

There you have it, an “advertisement segment of a broadcast.” Your Apple TV set, or set-top box, would pick up on a commercial break, automatically send you to a different TV show or on-demand content, and then bring you back when it’s over.

While this would no doubt make the hair on the necks of cable executives stand up, it doesn’t say the invention is limited to TV. Imagine you’re listening to Pandora, and when a advertisement starts, your iPhone automatically switched to a song from your local library. It could even be from the same artist or genre you were listening to.

Even if the features detailed in this patent never see the light of day, it’s still very interesting that Apple is looking into and working on such things  — especially with rumors swirling about that it has a cable box in the works.

  • FrankensteinBlack

    I was two seconds a way from ranting about how the USPTO and the patent reviewers are so gay for Apple they would grant them a patent to a rectangle ;^). And how this was already used by the long defunct REPLAYTV but I see this is actually different as it appears to be for “live” and not recorded content. Nice one Apple.

    Ok, I’ll be quiet now…

    • Haha, I thought the same thing! I definitely thought this was for recorded content, or it’ll just skip to another Pandora station when it “senses” an ad. But this is really nice! Now THIS is innovating!

  • No more Obama

    sounds interesting. but i think it might be annoying. if it switches to music for when a commercial comes on. it might turn on a song that doesn’t fit your mood for the moment and since its in mp3s the volumes are quite different. also, what happens if you get into the song and then it just switches back to the show and you’re not that interested in the show to begin with? youll be a little annoyed.

    i prefer if you can flip around on your own. not that it’s done for you. you can try different channels and then it will automatically bring you back to your show. (i often forget what i’m watching and forget to turn back in time)…can i patent this? 😉

  • Atticus Jones

    It’s not too surprising that broadcasters are hesitant about what Apple is attempting to offer. I work at Dish and wonder if the big four networks will file litigation against this kind of technology. It’s an interesting concept what Apple wants to do, but it seems geared towards changing how people view live television shows since it replaces commercials with other content. Auto Hop allows you to skip commercials from a recorded show, which is a definite time-saver and helps me get through shows more quickly when I have time to sit down and watch TV. Ad skipping technology has been around for awhile and will be continue to be because viewers don’t want watch 20 minutes of commercials in an hour-long show.

  • Jack

    Great, for now in the UK I record almost everything on the commercial channels, when I play the programs back I fast search the adverts it takes about ten seconds to fast search 3-4 minutes of adds and I’m getting pretty good at it, I don’t mind some adds but ch4-5 are taking the pith, a 1 hour program has about 20mins of adds, so the sooner someone brings this out the better, I will buy it.