TiVo’s culture is shifting away from consumers

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that the folks at TiVo will begin running banneresque ads as people are fast-forwarding through commercials beginning in March of next year. Woo, boy, is THIS one gonna get some attention! The Times calls it a “groundbreaking new business strategy, developed with more than 30 of the nation’s largest advertisers, that in key ways circumvents the very technology that made TiVo famous.”

TiVo viewers will see “billboards,” or small logos, popping up over TV commercials as they fast-forward through them, offering contest entries, giveaways or links to other ads. If a viewer “opts in” to the ad, their contact information will be downloaded to that advertiser — exclusively and by permission only — so even more direct marketing can take place.

By late 2005, TiVo expects to roll out “couch commerce,” a system that enables viewers to purchase products and participate in surveys using their remote controls.

Perhaps even more significant is TiVo’s new role in market research. As viewers watch, TiVo records their collective habits — second by second — and sells that information to advertisers and networks. (It was TiVo that quantified the effect of Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction,” reporting a 180% increase in the number of replays reported by viewers.)

For advertisers it’s an extraordinary boon, a quicker and more effective way than they’ve ever had of measuring the effects of their TV commercials.

For viewers, TiVo’s new strategy means the technology famously christened “God’s machine” by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael K. Powell is rapidly becoming a marketer’s best friend, proving that try as they might, consumers cannot hide from marketing.

We’ll see about that. Advertising execs are singing, “Ding, dong the witch is dead,” but I wonder. Some are likening this to those annoying pop-ups on Websites, and I can’t wait to see the only reaction that counts — the consumers.

What nobody seems to realize is that the collapse of television isn’t just about advertising. It goes way beyond that. I’m all for people making money from their work, but let’s be real here. When network prime time is fully one-third commercial and promotional announcements, something’s out of whack. TiVo is under incredible pressure from the status quo to let them get involved in the action, and that’s what’s happening here. The company’s ability to track usage is downright scary, and what will happen when that’s turned over to the laws of profit?

Here’s the real bottom line. When I wrote to Senator Frist about the INDUCE Act, encouraging him not to vote for it, I got a nice letter back. Here’s the pertinent paragraph:

Theft of our nation’s intellectual property over the Internet is becoming an increasing problem, and it affects far more that our music community. It threatens almost every creative field including the movie and software industries. In total, our nation’s copyright industries contribute well over half a trillion dollars to the U.S. economy, support over 4.7 million workers, and are our largest export.
That’s the muscle that conventional channels are up against and why the real revolution is at the personal level. Blogs, vlogs and ultimately Internet-delivered entertainment produced by people who are more interested in being read, heard and seen than lining the pockets of corporate investors is what to keep an eye on.

Like John Cleese…who’s happy to entertain you for a year on his Website for just $50. This is just the beginning of a wave of entertainers who are bypassing the status quo to reach their audience. Who needs middle men these days?

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