Yes, it’s true. There’s a lot of content available on DIRECTV On Demand that doesn’t let you skip commercials. The same is true of the “Restart” functionality that lets you start a show in the middle and rewind to the beginning. It’s a fact. Not only can’t you skip commercials but in many cases rewind and fast forward are disabled. Let’s talk about why.
It’s not the technology (anymore.)
When on demand was new, we were led to believe that you couldn’t fast forward, rewind, or skip commercials because of the way the program was delivered. This was in the relatively early days of streaming and it was possible the servers and streams couldn’t handle it. Of course we fast forward and rewind all the time on other streaming services so that isn’t really the cause anymore, is it?
It’s the lawyers. It’s always the lawyers.
The real reason you can’t skip commercials on most on-demand recordings of TV shows is simple. The lawyers don’t want you to. I’m sure that the contract that allows AT&T to record a show and store it locally for on-demand broadcast has something in it. Some phrase, some clause, some whatever. The point is that you’re forced to watch commercials that you can’t skip.
This sort of thing is actually common. If you stream using the ABC or NBC apps you will find commercials you can’t skip. If you are on the lower tier of Hulu or All Access you’ll find non-skippable commercials too. It’s not DIRECTV. It’s everyone. Pointing the finger at one provider isn’t fair.
It boils down to some very common-sense laws that say you can’t record something and rebroadcast it for profit unless the copyright owner says it’s ok. AT&T is profiting from the fact that you pay them for TV service, so the law applies.
After all, we have to remember that commercials are the things that make broadcast TV possible and unless people watch them, they’re worthless.
Are there options?
Well, with a Genie 2 DVR you have about 2 terabytes of recording space and you can record 7 things at once. You can set up 100 recurring recordings and an infinite number of manual ones. This means that if you want, you can record a lot of stuff and then if you want you can watch it without commercials.
The law that forces AT&T to put non-skippable commercials in doesn’t apply to your recordings because you’re using them at home and not charging anyone. The term for this is “fair use.” The law allows it according to several high-profile legal cases.
The best option may be to just sit and wait. AT&T’s DIRECTV NOW streaming service has cloud DVR, which is essentially an on-demand playback service. It lets you skip commercials. Remember it’s the same set of lawyers negotiating both, so it may be possible that the non-skippable commercials on DIRECTV satellite could just naturally go away. I wouldn’t count on it but it is at least possible.