TiVo Takes Measure of Users With New Ad Tools


TiVo Inc. last week unveiled new audience-measurement tools that literally watch the watchers, providing advertisers and programmers with detailed information on what its customers see and do with their digital video recorders.

The San Jose, Calif.-based DVR technology provider will offer the viewer tracking tools and quarterly subscription primetime-data reports, detailing what shows TiVo customers watched, what they skipped, when they changed channels and what they recorded — without revealing customer identities.

The inaugural report now available is based on a sample of 11,000 TiVo viewers among its 700,000 customer base, looking at viewing patterns from last October to February across the Big Three networks plus The WB and Fox.

The quarterly report was developed in partnership with Starcom MediaVest Group, a major media-buying firm. Not only is it aimed at bringing in more revenue for TiVo, but the report will also provide needed data to advertisers on the habits of the growing DVR universe, according to Richard Fielding, Starcom's vice president an director of research.

TiVo households currently account for only 2.4% of U.S. TV households, but it is a segment expected to grow in the coming years.

"Our clients are interested, because they want to understand how TV is changing, and how the viewing dynamic in households is going to change," Fielding said. "The other thing that we feel about TiVo or DVRs is, it's not a case of if they going to catch on, it's just when and how fast."

Advertisers are particularly keen on data regarding ad-skipping habits, and the first report indicates that the type of program has an influence. Live events such as this year's Grammy Awards prompted only 25 % to speed through the commercials, while the taped NBC sitcom Friends
prompted 61% of TiVo viewers to hit the fast-forward button.

"What this whole study shows is that if you give the consumers more ability to skip through commercials, then they will do it — and the reason they are doing it is because they don't want to see them again. It's redundant and it's an awful waste of advertising dollars," Fielding said.

Given the information each TiVo box can supply, the research data also offers a far more detailed look at exactly what DVR users are doing compared to other television-viewing data providers.

"What the set-top boxes offer is not only second-by-second channel-tuning information, but just-offered census-level samples," Fielding said. "It's so easy for these guys to draw down — it's potentially every household they have on their subscriber base."

That TiVo has come out with an audience-tracking product is no surprise given the direction of its new president, former NBC honcho Martin Yudkovitz, according to analyst Greg Ireland, International Data Corp.

But TiVo may face static from its customers, who may not be comfortable with the idea that their box is watching them, rather than just the other way around.