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TiVo Wants To Help Viewers Watch More Ads -- Really.
As the founding father of the DVR, TiVo, like Google, is the one that won the race to be the verb. People talk of TiVo-ing their favorite shows, just as they say they Google-d their blind date’s name. But the other rap TiVo now carries is that it ushered in the era of consumer control. TiVo did what VCRs were unable to do -- make it very, very easy to skip a 30-second spot. Now, given that so many cable companies have jumped in and stolen TiVo’s thunder with their own DVR products, TiVo needs to figure out a business model that includes some sort of ad revenue.

So, under relatively new president Tom Rogers, its latest plan is to become the Google of the TV screen. As the Wall Street Journal reports today, TiVo plans to launch a service next spring to let viewers search for ads by topic, like travel or automotive. Rogers tells the Journal, “We’re flipping the dynamic. … If you are in the market for a product, and you have no idea when commercials related to that kind of product are going to appear, it doesn’t help you very much." The idea is that consumers will tell their TiVo they are interested in any information about Lexus, and TiVo will download any relevant ads.

TiVo is in discussions with Interpublic Group of Cos.’ Interpublic Media, Omnicom Group’s OMD, Publicis Groupe’s Starcom MediaVest Group, independent Richards Group and Comcast Corp.’s Comcast Spotlight ad-sales division, about letting advertisers bid on keywords as they do when buying ads on Google or other search engines. The other option is for advertisers to create ads that are so compelling viewers will seek them out for their entertainment value. TiVo wants to set itself up as the way consumers can find those ads, too. Either way, TiVo is out to make more advertising friends. But will TiVo’s new crowd make its fans, who embraced TiVo because it allowed them to keep the advertising out of their house, feel betrayed? The trick will be to serve advertisers and make sure consumers still feel in control, and do it better than any other DVR service that comes with their cable package.

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