Bit Rate

TiVo: Dreaming of TV Commerce

7/25/2008 6:18 AM

Letting television viewers purchase products using their remote controls — "TV commerce" — is one of the original examples of interactive television’s potential. But it has never materialized on a wide scale.

Now come TiVo and Amazon, which earlier this week announced a plan to let advertisers sell products via on any broadcast or cable network show. 

For instance, a subscriber with a broadband-connected TiVo might get a pitch to buy the book that its author just rapped about on The Oprah Winfrey Show at the end of the program. 

Here’s a mock-up of what that screen would look like, provided by TiVo:

So TiVo and Amazon named several TV shows it said would be among those it uses to “launch” the new service, including Comedy Central’s Colbert Report and USA Network’s Burn Notice.

But as yet, TiVo’s TV commerce is still just a pipe dream. The company said it had not signed up an advertiser that is interested in testing the feature.

TiVo also later clarified that it doesn’t have product-purchasing deals with the networks or shows cited in its press release.

Indeed, TiVo noted that it doesn’t need anyone’s permission to sell products through its DVR.

“Our product recommendations are based on what we know about the shows (title, actor, director, guest, etc.) from the program data, so we don’t specifically need to have a deal with a network for this feature,” TiVo director of broadband services Evan Young said. He added, though, that the company would be interested in working with programmers in the future.

If and when this TiVo-Amazon offering takes off with marketers, cable may finally be in a position to offer the same type of thing — but to a bigger audience.

The six biggest MSOs have teamed up to form Canoe Ventures, which is supposed to provide a suite of interactive TV services across cable networks and operators.