NBC Universal has become the first large network to take advantage of TiVo Inc.’s advertising services to track how television viewers are using their DVRs and potentially to introduce interactive commercials to the masses. Under the deal, announced Tuesday, NBC Universal’s 14 television networks and 10 NBC owned-and-operated TV stations will be able to sell TiVo Interactive Tags in combination with other NBC products and will subscribe to TiVo’s Stop||Watch and Power||Watch services, which provide second-by-second data about shows and commercials that are being watched, paused, skipped and rewound.
Stop||Watch data is based on a random and anonymous sampling of 20,000 of TiVo’s 4.2 million subscribers each night, whereas Power||Watch data comes from an opt-in panel of 20,000 TiVo users, so it includes detailed demographic information.
Interactive Tags allow viewers to click on an icon when watching a commercial to obtain more information about that advertiser and then return to the exact place they exited viewing, and providing advertisers with a new way to reach live, time-shifted or fast-forwarding viewers. NBC will also be able to offer its advertisers detailed reports on the results of campaigns that include Tags. Under the partnership, TiVo and NBC Universal will work together to develop additional advertising products and in some cases will even share revenue. It’s exactly this kind of revenue, incidentally, that the WGA is striking over.
The partnership is an important step in the industry’s struggle to adapt to the new ways consumers are watching television in the age of DVRs, and puts TiVo in direct competition with industry giant Nielsen Media Research, which has had a strangle-hold on ratings and viewer information gathering since the 1940s.
Earlier this year, Nielsen deployed its “live +7” numbers, which register not only the night a show is originally broadcast, but the following seven days as well, in an attempt to incorporate time-shifted viewing into its data. The new numbers indicate that when popular shows meet in identical time slots, they can all be winners. The Office, for example, which faces up against powerhouses Grey’s Anatomy and CSI on Thursdays, sees a 17 percent increase in viewers when the live +7 viewership is taken into consideration. Interestingly, reality shows don’t seem to fare as well in the live +7 data. Programs like Dancing with the Stars, which generate day-after water-cooler analysis are rarely saved and watched in the days following their initial broadcast.