The TiVo Controversy

posted on 2004-11-20 at 00:26:02 by Joel Ross

TiVo took some heat this week. There were numerous posts about unplugging your TiVo and moving to some other solution. Even Mike Swanson talks about how nice MCE 2005 is. He was the first person to ever talk to me about TiVo, and he was passionate about it. He sold me on it. Nevermind that it took me two more years to convince my wife! (I wonder why Mike's been so quiet lately?)

So while TiVo is getting attacked in the blogosphere, what do they do? They announce that they'll start inserting advertisements into fast forwarded commercials. Let the rumors begin! It started out that TiVo would no longer allow fast forwarding, but TiVo quickly clarified that. No, you can still fast forward, but advertisements will be inserted for you. I wonder if the advertisements will be for the same thing that the commercial you're fast forwarding through is for.

I don't remember where I saw this, and can't find it (so if it's you, sorry for not crediting you), but I read that companies were going to try to do exactly what TiVo will now do. They were going to take one out of every thirty frames (or however many frames TiVo samples), and put a special banner in there. Then when you fast forward, TiVo would only pick up that banner, resulting in a solid screen for fast forwarding users. To the normal users, who are watching live TV (notice my TiVo terminology!) it would appear as a normal commercial. I wonder if something like that qualifies for subliminal messages.

Then came a study about fast forwarding (again, can't find the link). It turns out that fast forwarding through an ad results in roughly the same retention as watching the ad in real-time. Think about it. If you fast forward, you pay close attention to the TV. You don't want to miss the show. But if you watch the commercials, you go get a drink, use the bathroom, etc. As an advertiser, which would you rather have? Someone watching attentively, albeit at a much faster pace, or someone in the other room?

I don't quite get the controversy. Nothing really changes. You can still fast forward. I understand that when you pay for a service, you want it to be ad free. But you pay for cable, and that isn't ad free, is it? Your newspaper isn't ad free. So why should you expect TiVo to be?

Categories: Software