The Future (and Threat To) TV, and TiVO

On Wednesday’s “Naked Media” live show (soon to be available on demand at, Web TV entrepreneur (and long-time TV animation executive) Fred Seibert talked about how TiVo brought a lot of viewers to the programs on his Next New Networks, home of everything from car enthusiast shows to Obama Girl on “Barely Political” to shows for people crazy for comic books. He said that TiVo, hungry for content to distribute to TiVo subscribers, had struck deals with Web content providers like his company. Fred gets distribution to a new audience (and more views for ads). TiVo gets more content to subscribers paying their monthly fees.

TiVo, thus, becomes a box that not only allows time-shifting of traditional TV and ad-skipping, but also viewing of quality Web content on the TV as well. That’s something a lot of consumers don’t realize.

Later, at the Future of TV conference in midtown Manhattan, TiVO’s VP and GM, Audience Research and Measurement Todd Juenger said he didn’t like the traditional ways of classifying audience for advertising measurement purposes, that demographic groupings, such as women ages 18-49, were a far-from-perfect proxy for what advertisers really want. Procter & Gamble, where he once worked, is interested in women who want to use a particular product in a particular way: women interested buying a detergent with a particular smell, for example. That’s much more important than their age or any other group measurement. Beer companies would love to know if a household tends to buy Budweiser or Miller -- something, Juenger said, TiVo can tell when it maps the household to data from a grocery story shopping card such as that provided by the company Experion.

TiVo, thus becomes not just a measurement box, but the means by which an advertiser can serve ads more perfectly targeted to a household.

But TiVo, while a triple threat, also faces a threat. I asked Juenger whether the Internet was threatening his company just as his company threatens ad revenues for broadcast and cable TV. He said he felt there was room for it all, that TV screens are the better experience and that TiVo was bringing programming to people over those screens.

Well, yes. But. What about the increasing improvement in screens of all types, the desire for people to watch what they want wherever, however? Later at the conference, both a Fox executive and ABC's Rick Mandler pointed out that while the audience was still miniscule, the viewership of their programs on computer screens was growing (and they could build players for computers that didn't allow ad skipping). Seibert said he would provide his programming on any screen where people were demanding it. There’s not yet enough viewership on mobile screens like iPhones, he said, but as soon as there is, he’ll be signing distribution deals. And, when there is, where will TiVo be? If TiVo’s main value proposition is showing stuff on a TV hooked up to its machine, and that becomes irrelevant because Hulu or or the Roku box hooked up to Netflix, or Apple TV provides the programming on-demand -- what would that do to TiVo’s business?

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