Friday, December 28, 2001

TiVo's year-end sales appear strong

TiVo’s year-end sales appear strong ::: To have a TiVo box is to be a TiVo evangelist. This is a piece of technology the whole family can get behind (as evidenced by the variety of “season passes” in our house: Sesame Street, Rolie Polie Olie, Sopranos, Sex and the City, West Wing, The Larry Sanders Show, Ed, anything mentioning the 49ers, etc.), and it will radically change the way you watch TV. The good news from this article is that their sales were strong in Q4, and subscriber growth is up. (Also helping: a 7 year licensing deal with Sony, and rumors of more on the way.)

Some have predicted that this is the death of free TV. I’m not so sure. If you’ve used TiVo, you may have noticed the recent Lexus ads on TiVo – creative ways of encouraging you to watch certain shows where Lexus had placed their ads. If you watched the ads, you could return to the Lexus TiVo microsite and enter a sweepstakes to win a new Lexus. (Results? A response from nearly 25% of all TiVo subscribers.)

Other ways TiVo has leveraged its technology: aggregating subscriber data for the networks, and selling sponsorships to the networks themselves. (One example of this: while watching an NBC show on TiVo, an ad for another NBC show comes on. Thanks to the TiVo box, it displays a “push select to record” message – allowing one-click recording of the show being advertised. This is a great way for NBC to expand its reach, and was used effectively by NBC to introduce new shows.)

There’s no question that TiVo changes the way you watch TV. But it doesn’t necessarily undermine the broadcast “free” TV that we’re used to. As TiVo’s penetration continues (it’s still in less than 500,000 homes), it will become its own gateway to ad- supported content: the same model that the major networks operate on today.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see TiVo change the way the ads support the broadcasting. Anybody else noticed the way that DVDs can prevent you from fastforwarding promos at the beginning, before getting you to the main menu? Or in many European countries, where the ads frequently follow the main show? TiVo could make it very easy to mimic these options – locking in a few ads as required viewing for uninterrupted shows.

Now why won’t TiVo come up with a recorder for my car radio? Oh wait… somebody already is.

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