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Launch HN: Taiv (YC W20) – Replace TV commercials with content people care about
178 points by npalansky 6 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 116 comments
Hey HN!

We’re Noah, Avi, and Jordan from Taiv (https://www.taiv.tv). We make a box that lets sports bars and other businesses replace live TV commercials with content their customers actually care about.

A year and a half ago, I was sitting in a local bar and saw a commercial showing that the same beer I was drinking was cheaper across the street. The place I was in had other drinks on specials for way cheaper and great happy hour food, but they didn’t have an effective way to tell me about it. I ended up walking away feeling ripped off when I could have left a happy customer if they had been able to more effectively make me aware of their specials.

It got me investigating how businesses communicate with their customers. I found out that half of all restaurants close within a year and that one of the most common reasons they fail is because they’re unable to educate their customers about everything they offer and what events they have coming up. We built Taiv to give business owners a way to communicate with their customers, by showing content during commercial breaks on the TVs people are already watching.

Taiv uses custom hardware that lets us analyze the cable box’s video output in real-time. It also lets us switch between passing the content through, or showing videos from another input. But it turns out that a harder part of the problem is the analysis for classifying video. We compute a bunch of different heuristics and use the combination of their outputs to classify video as either a commercial or content. For example, one of our heuristics looks at average color balance over small periods of time. When the color balance shifts significantly, it indicates that a scene has changed. We use a bunch of other similar heuristics, which in combination, allow us to classify the stream with good accuracy.

Some of our customers have increased their sales by thousands of dollars a month. It also makes the experience a lot better for their customers. TV commercials are annoying and loud, and we replace that with relevant and non-intrusive content and music. Some of our customers even use the commercial breaks to show funny videos without any advertising at all. Not all of our customers are restaurants. We also work with car dealerships, car washes, hotels, and gyms to give them control over what they show and help them educate their customers.

One of the biggest challenges we’re facing is that we’re getting the most traction from larger enterprises, but are having trouble really connecting with smaller businesses. We think the product could be really valuable for them, especially since they don't usually have as much marketing reach. But we’re having trouble portraying the value of the system when they can’t track how it affects their revenue nearly as accurately. We’d love to hear the community’s experience and ideas in this area, as well as any questions or feedback!






> But we’re having trouble portraying the value of the system when they can’t track how it affects their revenue nearly as accurately. We’d love to hear the community’s experience and ideas in this area, as well as any questions or feedback!

I was in this space at one point. It's really really hard to sell to small restaurants. Most of them don't even have anyone who is familiar enough with technology to get it set up, so prepare for a a lot of hand holding to get it set up, even if it seems dead simple.

Most of the restaurants were willing to try something once, but if you couldn't prove ROI right away, they wouldn't do it again. And that will be really hard, because most of them aren't sophisticated enough to even find the ROI in their finances. A lot of them pretty much just use their bank account as their measure of profitability. They don't know how to do advanced accounting or how to discount one time purchases, etc.

Since your model is a one time payment, you'll probably have to do a free trial, which means all the effort of the install up front, and then possibly even more cost to remove it if they don't want it.

You'll need to build up a case study library. Figure out a way to quantify your ROI and build case studies. You'll probably have to volunteer to run their finances for them to help them find the ROI, or find a small business with a good accounting system.

Good luck! It's a really tough nut to crack, but if you can keep the price reasonable and show ROI, everyone will want it, especially if their competition has it.

ps. When you're setting these up, please make a strong suggestion to the owner that they turn on closed captioning for their TVs. :)


+1 to all of this. I was also in this space ~5 years ago and faced all of the same pain points. We installed hardware (simple iBeacons) in restaurants/bars and had an online portal for them to enter drink specials. About 1/3 of our customers required weekly assistance with one or both of these.

We did find that lots of businesses had a set budget for experimental expenditure like this so starting off with a 3 month (quarterly recurring) subscription worked pretty well. They were willing to spend upfront to try it out and several months were enough time to determine if it had any impact on their revenue.

Good luck!


You could require restaurants to show exclusive deals and vouchers that are not found elsewhere. That makes it directly quantifiable.

I’ve read your replies and I’m glad your lawyers are feeling solid about how you’re doing what you’re doing. That said, I hope you’ve dedicated at least two or three times your hardware/R&D budget towards lawyers because broadcasters and operators are notoriously litigious. Especially for anything that actively positions itself around ad circumvention.

But my concern wouldn’t just be for your startup. If I’m a bar or restaurant owner, I don’t want to pay for anything that could put me in violation of my carriage contract with my TV operator and unless you can assure your customers they won’t run afoul of a contract (and your lawyer will tell you you can’t. Even if you could, the answer is you cannot), that would be a tough sell.

The dynamic ad-insertion stuff is interesting — particularly if you are doing it in real time (most of the stuff that already out there like what Dish did with Hopper (and was sued over) and what Plex does for its OTA service happen post-recording), but that almost strikes me as a software offering not a hardware component. I suppose best-case scenario, you could partner/license this tech to the cable operators to sell to their business clients in exchange for an additional fee.

Best of luck — it’s an interesting idea. I just can’t get past the myriad of legal red flags.


Interesting breakdown of the legal complexities involved. Thanks.

The corner-case devil got the better of me:

Wonder how the lawyers (and the law) would treat it if they (Taiv) position custom content as channel and then just switch channels at opportune times?


It's not a question of regular law, it's a question of contracts.

To show live sports in bars you have to sign a contract, and periodically renew it. If the broadcaster notices Tavi and doesn't like it, they can simply add a no-Tavi clause during contract renewal.


When I worked for Zattoo (leading TV streaming provider in Europe; B2C+B2B business), we developed a dynamic ad insertion technology that can do exactly that but without any hardware: https://www.broadbandtvnews.com/2017/03/20/zattoo-offers-dyn...

It replaces ads in a unicast stream with targeting down to an account level - at least from a technical perspective. All server side. No box required.

Feel free to reach out if you want some feedback, advice or industry insights. Love your idea!

https://www.linkedin.com/in/ralf-zattoo/


I'm guessing their approach (switch the channel when there's an ad) is motivated by the need to keep to the cable TV company's TOS.

If you digitize the cable stream, replace the ads, and display that on your in-house TV, you're probably violating copyright and/or some TOS.

But I guess no TOS says you can't change the channel when ads are showing, so why not have a little robot help you do that?


We did the same at Fabrix Systems back in 2007-8 - the real winner for OP might be giving the boxes away for free and setting up an ad auction system.

Isn't the point of this product to _not_ have ads anymore?

A business owner could sell more targeted ad space instead of whatever commercials are run by the station. During college football games on ESPN, there are no beer ads and a huge amount of ads for Coke Zero. You go to a bar to drink beer so there shouldn't be an issue with running ads for whatever beer they serve. You could display specials menus or run quick trivia games or advertise gift cards/merch. You could even run local commercials to make the system have a really visible ROI. Finding your ROI on running specials menus might require some advanced accounting skills but getting paid to run local ads requires little skill to realize the benefit.

It seems to me that the point is to have targeted ads.

Screw bars, I want to buy this. Just replace ads with a black screen.

Haven't streaming services already solved this problem for home users? I haven't seen an ad on my TV since still lived with my parents nearly a decade ago.

They have a bigger problem now of including the commercials in the media itself. How much directing and screen time is wasted on focusing on a car brand’s logo or talking about the features and blah blah.

My solution was to simply stop watching or to watch older stuff.


HBO shows ads for its other content.

I'm kind of OK with that, honestly, as a) they're trivially skippable, b) there's no financial implication to watching it, and c) I turn on HBO to watch stuff so if they're letting me know I already paid for something that generally improves my life.

My issues with ads are really much more with third party transactions—I want to be the customer they care about pleasing. Unlike, say, newspapers, or cable, or social media.


I know Hulu still shows you ads even if you pay to remove them, but that may be an outlier.

That said i personally still have cable (YouTube tv) in order to watch sports and cable news.


I've heard that there are 1 or 2 shows on Hulu that show an ad before and after the show, but I haven't run into any of them myself.

Most people here still live with their parents.

Or lower sound

or a photo collage of your family photos

Use DVR software like MythTV.

Does that edit out live commercials? It certainly could, I don't think what they are doing is technically difficult, it seems like they are just marketing into the right people.

I'm not 100% sure if it can do realtime commercial detection. I remember a post-recording commercial scan job that had to run (I haven't used it since like 2009 or so). Modern hardware should be able to edit commercials in real time. With or without commercial detection, if you wait about 20 minutes after the start of an hour show, you'd be able to skip the commercials (automatically or manually) and finish watching when the show itself ends.

Possibly the worst time in recent history to launch a product aimed at restaurants. I imagine it's too expensive for individual use?

Having worked for a company which did POS systems for the hospitality market, I feel that your best investment of marketing effort is to find a chain or franchise to hook up with. Small businesses require most "touch" and have least money.


It's definitely a hard time for the restaurant industry, we're doing what we can to support our customers through this. The nice thing is that our customers see a pretty big ROI with our system and they need the revenue bump now more than ever (once they open back up).

In the meantime, we also work with quite a few car dealerships and autospas who aren't being hit quite as hard as the restaurant industry.


This an interesting idea. I’d imagine you’ll have a lot of lawsuits to deal with though I think you’d win. On the other hand it’s trivial for content streams to contractually bar venues from modifying the content and that would supersede the overall right to do so.

Side point, is there a master kill switch to turn it off during the Super Bowl?


> On the other hand it’s trivial for content streams to contractually bar venues from modifying the content and that would supersede the overall right to do so.

Given the number of bars or restaurants I (used to) go to using some employee's Spotify stream as their music provider, I think the problem is that enforcement by the providers is basically impossible.


It's not the providers like Spotify doing enforcement. Music licensing agencies like ASCAP and BMI literally send their employees out as undercover investigators to bars and restaurants. They record which songs are played, then send a demand for payment (with penalties) along with threatening a lawsuit. Obviously they can't check every bar but they try to hit enough to scare the others.

Exactly. And all it often takes for a small bar/restaurant owner is to get one of those demand letters to scare them to settle. Of course, it can depend on the size of the bad/restaurant too. A small place with a capacity of 30 or 35 people might not care about an ASCAP demand letter that caught them using Spotify. But your larger places and especially anything that is a chain or franchise are going to take that stuff seriously. And the reality is that for music, there are a number of inexpensive sources that are licensed that a place can use. It won’t be as convenient as Spotify, perhaps — but those MusicChoice cable channels are often targeted to bars or other businesses because they don’t charge an additional mechanical performance license — the business just pays whatever they pay the satellite or cable provider.

The problem for businesses that want to go around those types of regulations isn’t that there isn’t a market for business owners who don’t care about music or broadcast licensing. There is one. The issue is the real target market for something like this startup is going to be a high-revenue/capacity bar or a chain. And those places tend to care a lot more about compliance.


Surely there must be some mechanism for tracking this: I've heard the cost for a sports bar to stream a UFC fight is in the thousands, whereas for individuals it's like $60. Can anyone weigh in on this?

There are a few ways. First, if you’re a business — especially a bar or restaurant, you need to get a business satellite or cable setup — you can’t just call up Comcast or DirecTV and get a residential setup. You can try — but the cable/satellite companies are good about sussing that out. They’ll have their own required contract lengths and provisions for business accounts that will include additional terms if you are going to be broadcasting to the public. The sports packages like NFL Sunday Ticket and the like are charged based on bar/restaurant capacity. If your bar can hold 150 people, you’re looking at about $5k a year for NFL Sunday Ticket. Compare that with the $600 or so a consumer would pay, sans any discounts or promos.

The same is true of pay-per-view fights. They charge based on capacity and it’s a multiple of whatever the residential rate is.

Now, enforcement isn’t perfect but there are people that do spot checks and if a bar is advertising a fight for example, that’s a surefire way of helping ensure there is a visit to make sure there is compliance. I have to think social media has only made this easier, as bars and restaurants use Facebook and Instagram to drive customers.

All of this is to say — although it sounds like this particular startup isn’t infringing on anything (at least not as we’ve seen in the other commercial skip/replacement lawsuits against Dish and the like), I would think guess that any sports bar paying for a premium sports package probably has something in the contract prohibiting this kind of behavior.

If I were a bar or restaurant owner, I certainly wouldn’t want to risk pissing off the multi-billion dollar leagues and corporations I rely on in part for my business. But that’s me.


Somehow in between the actual cable companies and the UFC is a distributor called Joe Hand Promotions. They employ freelance private investigators to go to any bar they find advertising UFC fights, sit in the bar and witness that the fight is being shown, check against their DB to see if they've paid the commercial rate, and then have aggressive attorneys shake down the bar for high four or low five figures. It sounds crazy but every PPV night Joe Hand has a number of freelancers out there, following up on any bar advertising that they have the fights on Facebook or what have you. Here's an investigative piece on it: https://www.bloodyelbow.com/2016/9/12/12586828/zuffa-anti-pi...

Semi off-topic: I can't understand why people who dislike ads make an exception for superbowl ads. I guess they're supposed to have high entertainment value? So what? Would you happily watch political propaganda, if it just had high enough entertainment value? Of course not! So why willfully submit yourself to corporate propaganda?

I would watch highly entertaining political propaganda. I think most people do this regularly.

What would you give as an example of political propaganda that a lot of people willingly watch regularly? Not something where some people think it's political propaganda, but something where it's objectively indisputably political propaganda.

I wouldn't count presidential debates, unless they were pre-rehearsed. And I wouldn't count political rallies since those are mostly attended in-person, not so often watched on TV. I guess the closest thing I can think of in the U.S. might be the State of the Union, but again, it's subjective whether or not that is propaganda (in THEORY it's not supposed to be).


> What would you give as an example of political propaganda that a lot of people willingly watch regularly?

Action movies that go over the top with "freedom" and "patriotism" and "America".


What is your definition of propaganda?

The daily “Coronavirus Task Force” briefing is 98% political propaganda and quite entertaining to watch.

I've tried a lot of formulas in an attempt to reach the same customers.

1) make it expensive and they stop listening entirely

2) Make it free and they get paranoid. They take it as if you are looking to take a chunk of "their" action.

3) Literally put your money where your mouth is. Ask for the slowest hours of the week and for the owner to be there. Tell them you want to eat and talk business. Bring your employees, your wife and your friends if your budget allows it.

You eat and drink, accumulate a decent bill then you sign them up for free. If they like it they take a subscription.

In stead of scared and insecure they treat you like a customer and customers in restaurants are treated with patience and respect. They will stop pondering when they will make any money from the deal since you've already ordered a lot.


Interesting product, sounds like a neat idea. Some feedback:

- It's unclear from your landing page what countries you support, as I get you need to train the service what is a commercial or not. Seems the team is Canada-based, but many YC companies start out US-only. As someone who is based in Europe, it'd be great to see what channels/countries you support up front.

- I filled out the "Ready to get started?" part, but it doesn't tell me what to expect, it just gives a green checkmark. I don't seem to have received any automatic email telling me what's about to happen either. I'd recommend you be more clear about what to happen. So before filling out the form, make clear what will happen if I do. And once submitted, tell me what's happening now. Will you reach out to me? Or will I receive a signup link? Tell me what to expect.


That is awesome feedback! We will 100% try to incorporate both of these things. You're right that we only support Canada & the US, but should make this more clear from our landing page.

Why not sell to non-enterprise as well? Pretty sure some people would like to filter adds from their TV and replace them with something else. Maybe come up with some curated content, possibly subscription based. A good entry might be parents/children. Just replace the adds in children's programs with some content that the parents agree with (learning videos, depending on age for example).

You could also consider a "goodwill" version that replaces all adds with adds for some social projects/charities.

I'm also not sure what the legal situation is when you replace a video signal. I feel like that could potentially be dicey in some way. At the very least the broadcasting lobby probably doesn't like it if someone can filter out adds.


> Why not sell to non-enterprise as well?

Agreed. Youtube and podcast ads skipping comes to mind.


What a great product! I was once sitting in a bar, and had a different challenge related to Bar TVs and Live Events.

My local brewery has 2 cable boxes, and on one particularly busy Thursday night a TV was devoted to some rerun of a college basketball game. I wanted to them to switch to a hockey match, but that took a lot more time than one might expect. Not only did I have to get the bartender's attention, but she had to find the remote and figure out what channel it was on while awkwardly holding the controller close to the TV. While she was trying to take this action, there were other customers waiting, which clearly should take priority since serving them drinks would actually make the bar money while my request was just a courtesy.

It made me think about a hardware box and associated web site where patrons could upvote what they wanted to see on the TV. It would leave the mediation and decisions out of the staff's hands and let them focus on what makes the bar money. Obviously, a bar could blacklist certain channels to prevent trolling and the bartender could have final say in case of big events.

Taking this one step further, the device could also be used to determine an ideal event. Rather than leave the channel up to one's personal taste, the box would default to the most popular game/event at a particular time (as gathered by other boxes on the network). This way, patrons who don't know about the service are less likely to leave if they don't see the game playing when they walk into the bar.

I think someone else commented that it could be hard to justify this purchase with the advertising feature alone. This additional automation feature is easier to translate to bar mangers: they can stop being TV DJs and get back to making money. Bonus points: you still have a revenue stream if Cable Providers send out a Cease & Desist.


Without the ads being displayed, isn't the bar/restaurant etc in violation of it's contract with their cable/satellite provider?

Totally understand where you're coming from, we the same concern at the beginning. We read through a bunch of TOSs and found that some prohibit the bars from modifying the stream, but they're allowed to change the channel / input whenever they want. We specifically designed our hardware to comply with this by changing the input on the TV instead of modifying the cable stream.

This was my initial thought as well and this is a very clever way of splitting the baby. I hope you don't get sued out of existence.

What prevents the TOS from changing to prohibit any automated attempt to circumvent the display of ads? The providers would have a huge incentive to do this if you become successful.

Somehow TiVo made it all these years on the premise of dodging ads. Not 1:1, but it gives hope.

I'd consider this inevitable, but that just makes it a race to strike a revenue-sharing (and integration) deal with the providers.

Thats a loophole. I’ll bet that’ll get closed if this is successful. I think you’d need to work with tv providers not against them.

It may be a loophole, but I have a hard time seeing how it could be closed. Telling users they can't change the channel or turn off their TV when an ad is playing will never fly.

IANAL but I imagine they could throw in words like “automated” to work around that, assuming anyone reads the TOS and cares to begin with

It depends who has the most power and BATNA. The sports network or the bar owner?

Home viewers are a different thing.


if it's switching the input source, I think that's a more grey area. It's legal for them to change the channel? I'm interested to see what comes of this

Also interested, maybe if this takes off it will push advertisement infrastructure closer to hardware?

It likely isn't in the contract now, but it might be in the future in way form or another.

How are you able to remove the newer versions of HDCP?

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-bandwidth_Digital_Conte...


We never remove HDCP. All our components that touch the HDMI feed are HDCP certified.

>prepare for a a lot of hand holding to get it set up

This is true in the small business space, in general. You will find, that if you use a subscription model, that a significant percentage of your users will not re-up if the flow is complex in any way.

Some thoughts:

- setup needs to be as simple as HDMI/composite/component in from cable box, HDMI out to TV, power. LTE is preferred over wifi (wifi changes, setup difficulty)

- if you don't support hdcp, you're going to have unhappy customers (pretty sure the superbowl wont work in HD!). If you do support hdcp, you're going to have unhappy content providers. If you strip hdcp, you're going to get sued.


This seems super interesting. Is this possible to run at home and e.g. remove ads (or specifically black it out or mute it or something else)?

Also, how accurate is it?


Thanks! The tech works the same, and we've thought about hooking into Spotify or something for this. The problem is that the hardware is too expensive right now to make sense (each box costs us $300).

Accuracy is high and getting better every day. Right now, we get ~65% of all commercials, and false positives are super rare.


If you buy a high quality EPG data feed it will give you the start and stop times of each commercial slot. Cisco Videoscape does this to allow local affiliates to cut to local ads at the right time.

wow seems like this is something they should have investigated a bit before building so much heuristic and actually investing so much in the technology to detect commercials. I hope detecting ads is not the main part of their tech.

Modern digital TV has variable latency depending on the area and the method of transmission (cable, internet, DVB-T, etc), so you might be off by tens of seconds. Not sure whether it's a dealbreaker in this case.

Have you considered picking a few cool businesses and paying for them to use your product? If the customers really like it, they may start asking "hey how come you don't have Taiv like SoAndSo down the street?" That's probably easier for a restaurant or bar owner to understand than anything else you might do.

Also, random thought: a failure of your classifier is probably not the end of the world in most cases. But if all TVs running Taiv switch away simultaneously during a critical moment in a major sporting event like the Super Bowl then that might tank your business.

If you have a way of tuning the false positive/false negative parameters, you may want to tune them so that for certain highly watched content you're more likely to see an odd commercial than miss an important moment.


Can y'all please make a box that turns off all of the TVs in bars and restaurants whenever I walk in? I'd pay a monthly subscription for this. Add to that gyms and other public places, please.

On a more serious note, this is actually a brilliant idea. I've been in places so many times and seen competitors commercials playing and always though it was not in their best interest.


This what you're looking for? https://www.adafruit.com/product/73

New "Commercial" TV sets use device coded IR signals or LF radio because of these things.

You know how, somewhat annoyingly, polarized sunglasses black out some screens? Is there a way to do that on purpose?

No-ads sunglasses. We have a winner here. Edit: or place your content over the ads, AR-style. Almost thinkable with today's technology.

I've thought of this same thing. Identify ads in AR and layer the color of the sky on top of the ads. I'm guessing it's doable already.

you can do this yourself with an IR blaster. the infrared signals sent from the remote to the TV are not encrypted. only catch is you have to program the right signal for the TVs in the bar. it won't take long before people figure out what you're doing though.

Look up Mitch Altman's work

I want to see ads from the business I am sitting in even less than I want to see ads for car insurance. I cannot be alone.

Can you explain why this is? For me the exact opposite is true. I would absolutely rather see relevant information to the business I'm currently in displayed than something else.

In particular for bars and restaurants, this works really well to turn annoying commercials into a useful feed of info for customers.


TV in a bar is already an annoyance unless “the big game” is on. Interrupting an annoyance with an intrusion (“hey if you don’t buy these wings you’re practically losing money!”) just won’t engender good will.

I’m not implying this won’t work at all. But not in bars where it wouldn’t already be acceptable to have screens for gambling, OTB or whatever. Unless I am wrong, but I consider myself something of a bar aficionado.


From what we've heard, most people would rather see the happy hour promos than a toe fungus commercial while they eat, but I totally see where you're coming from.

We also let the bars play music instead of the commercial's audio which usually helps the atmosphere a lot.


But how many would rather see nothing at all? I bet you it’s most people.

I love the win-win-win potential here.

Communication is so hard. People need information to help them get their needs met, but they may not know what to ask and they find it intrusive, aggressive and untrustworthy if you try to connect and get that info (about what they don't even know to ask).

I like the idea of passive communication channels for educating your customer unobtrusively. It can take a lot of repetition for them to understand the value of a thing and finally decide to try it.

To reach small businesses, you might try talking to Main Street programs in small towns and Chambers of Commerce. See if you can work with them to develop something in terms of presentation or packaging.

Main Street is a program for small towns trying to do economic development in historic town centers that have often been passed by in recent decades. They are typically looking to specifically foster local small businesses in their footprint.

It's a tough climate these days to be a small business. We need to be actively developing systems that support small business success. I feel like we are currently somewhat top heavy and it causes economic instability.

I'm involved as a volunteer in my local Main Street program. I run r/CitizenPlanners and I've posted some resources there about the Main Street program. This is the main overview: https://www.reddit.com/r/CitizenPlanners/comments/duf6ae/mai...

Main Street seems to be fairly hard to find, even if you know it exists. You Google it and get Disney references and song references.

Best of luck.


I see that the company is based out of Winnipeg. I wonder if there's any startup incubator or "show and tell" events in that area.

I recently attended a Show & Tell in my small city of 25,000 people. The attendees included people active in the Business Improvement District and multiple small business owners (including the owner of 3 local bars). If Taiv was local, I'm sure every bar in the county would know about their product within a month.

Obviously, my small town is a fraction of the size of Winnipeg, but sometimes it's all about staying out there until you find yourself at the right place at the right time and surrounded by the right people.


Oh, thanks for that. Main Street is a US program, not Canadian. Chambers of Commerce may also be a US-centric thing.

What a waste of human potential. Is this really the best problem you could have solved with your skillset? The best minds of my generation are selling ads. This shit makes me depressed.

How's life up there on your high horse? What are you doing to solve world hunger or peace?

I remembered reading this article some time ago. Not sure what came of it.

https://www.ccjdigital.com/tv-networks-sue-flying-j-for-bump...


Our lawyers reached out to the people behind that suit. They found that the main issue was the way that their product handled copyright. We work differently and comply with those laws.

How does your product substantially differ from theirs in such a way that you believe it won't run afoul of broadcasters' rights?

> are having trouble really connecting with smaller businesses

there's no pricing, making it look expensive

Adding more visuals could definitely help, ie two timelines, comparing ads shown in a traditional Tv vs ads using Taiv.


I think you're totally right about the pricing. interesting idea on the timeline as well. We'll look into both of these ideas.

Love the idea!! I see a use case even as an individual consumer - when I am watching something live (News, SuperBowl), I would rather watch something interesting than watch the stupid ads.

Wondering if there are any legal issues around this (can cable networks go after this saying it's their content)? What is being played on my TV is entirely up to me but then this argument breaks down in some cases (e.g. car odometer - I can't replace the reading). Might be worth nailing down.


My favorite bar (The Tempest in SF) shows all the major Bay Area sports games with the volume on. They have an employee quickly flip the audio to music whenever the feed hits a commercial. This is one of the best things about watching sports there, and it's 100% manual.

So what I'm saying is: there's at least one bar in the market for this!


If TV manufacturers actually cared about the consumers well being they would add one simple feature: A Mute Timeout button that also dimmed the screen expecting high contrast flashing ads, each press extends another 20 seconds or so - that would solve most of the ad issue. Too loud? tap tap tap... 1 min later it eases the audio-visual back up to normal.

This is 1950s tech yet we've never seen it, so much for competition spawning better innovation.


> Taiv uses custom hardware that lets us analyze the cable box’s video output in real-time.

Is that a VGA decoder + some chip deployed with heuristics?


That's a part of it, but we also pull off & pre-process quite a few heuristics to make the real-time video processing feasible

Had a similar idea a few years ago. Bounced it around a few lawyers and there looked to be quite a bit of liability and was against at least one of our local providers TOS. If it gets traction, I imagine most providers will update their provider agreement as well.

There’s a reason Pluto exists and has to get content deals with providers. There’s no free lunch.


Totally valid concern. We've already had some conversations with the larger content providers who've been interested in partnering with us to make their ads more targeted and relevant. We're not looking for a free lunch. We just believe that businesses deserve some control and benefit from the ads they're being forced to show.

Sure, but they’re not being forced. They pay for it the service and it’s a choice.

The provider sells the service and the service is partially subsidized with local ad buys. You’re eating into that portion of the business.

If you can figure it out with the providers and scale, it will take off. I plan to follow along, good luck on the journey!


The TV providers will never allow this, not that I can tell. A restaurant or bar with more than one or two TVs is on the radar of their TV Provider as a commercial account. If it becomes clear that the advertising they put in is being removed in favor of in-house ads, they're going to jack the price of the cable package WAY up.

Or put in a contractual term specifically to disallow automated ways of changing the channel.

I won't comment much on the 'service' itself. I know little about the business (bars or ads) to give a good opinion, but would like to ask the team members and community what is the end game here (I am not attacking, honestly asking). Can this really be a billion (or whatever) dollar business worth of YC investment + other series of investments for the people putting in the money?

(again, kudos to the team and in no way an attack, trying to understand the landscape nowadays of seed investment and what investors 'see')


As a side project, I was exploring the possibility of Ad-blocker for televisions and it lead to a system like yours on paper. I assume your box can easily repurposed as an Ad blocker if needed?(I would love to hear about the compute power required).

But I wonder how the Television industry would approach such Ad-blocker if it gets widely used as in say like a browser extension. I presume they will force the government to ban such a device, then wouldn't it be biased against Internet Ad agencies/Publishers?


Cool idea. Do restaurants have enough content in terms of their offerings/how do you get them to make new content? How does that affect whether it's a good value prop for them?

Great point. We built a web app that allows businesses to create, upload and schedule content to play during the commercials. Unfortunately, restaurant owners are way too busy for that and usually don't have marketing backgrounds so we now offer to create/manage their content for them.

It isn't too much trouble for our team to manage and it's a great value add for the businesses.


I imagine just a still image of their current specials being displayed and any upcoming events is more than enough to display during commercial break.

For small biz, you might have to provide a simple template of this. Trivial, but there's a reason most bars just have a blackboard..

Didn't Tivo initially remove commercials...after lawsuits put them back in but he fast forward button helps you speed through them. Even if you're changing the channel, you'll have to budget in some cash for legal fees...and if you lose, does your business model survive? That would scare me away from your plans if I were in your shoes.

Sounds great in concept, but I fear that commercializing such a thing will bring mountains of lawyers against you.

this section with the two TV's and the "before/after"

https://i.imgur.com/LkOQKCo.png

doesn't autoplay with ublock origin Chrome - the base still image should show two different images.

many people have autoplaying video off by default now.


Same problem on Brave.

Agreed, should just show an ad on the left, and a happy hour special on the right.


Why not look at in-band/SCTE markers to see when the ads start/end instead of going thru the whole ML/CV thing?

SCTE markers are encrypted & sometimes removed at the cable head-end. Even if they weren't stripped, it would be illegal to decrypt and look at them.

Somebody read the book Contact...

I've seen the movie. Is there something in the book that has anything to do with this technology? I'm not understanding the comparison you're making.

I'm so tired of people exploiting other people. Especially if they're trying to upsell that fact.

What needs to happen that we humans start to think?




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