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"TiVo is a retention and acquisition exercise for us," said Deron Triff, vice president of digital ventures for PBS. "We're looking at this as a media buy and asking ourselves on a cost per thousand basis, 'Is this a way to acquire and retain viewers.' "
Mr. Triff declined to provide the financial details of the deal.
Key word searches
Under the experimental arrangement, PBS will promote three prime-time series over a six-month period on TiVo Showcases. The network will also use the opportunity to study how TiVo subscribers use the service to search out programming content with keywords.
Mr. Triff said keyword intelligence will be used to optimize the PBS program descriptors in the electronic programming guide. Doing so will allow TV viewers to encounter and engage with PBS content more frequently.
"We've been looking at digital video recorders in general for about a year and the way they predict viewing behavior and provide recommendations for content," he said.
TiVo's more than 600,000 subscribers will be able to access trailers and exclusive video clips from Manor House and History Detectives, two PBS original programs, and the network's long-running Nova series. Manor House, a six-part series documenting the experiences of modern people living within the strict class boundaries of Edwardian England, debuts April 28. History Detectives offers a look at experts' attempts to document antiques and other possessions in the homes of everyday people and is set to air this summer.
96,000 viewers last time
The new deal is actually an extension of PBS' relationship with TiVo. Last year, the network worked with TiVo to promote We Remember, a program about the 9/11 terror attacks. That TiVo Showcase ran from Aug. 29 to Sept. 11. PBS learned that most TiVo viewers access a showcase within the first four days of its availability. The network offered seven video trailers in the We Remember showcase. PBS found that about 96,000 TiVo subscribers (about 20% of the 480,000 subscribers at the time) accessed the video content. About 48,000 recorded the We Remember program.
In the current project, along with tracking the number of times TiVo viewers record the showcase programs, PBS will use TiVo's iPreview tags to link a branded showcase program to broadcasts. This function works in much the same was as links on the World Wide Web -- users involved in one content item can click to another content area at will. In this case, both items of content are video programs.
"We want to signal to our viewers and to the industry that we recognize that on-demand programming is critical, and we're preparing ourselves for non-linear viewing,' Mr. Triff said.