New TiVo service to encourage skipping TO the ads

TiVo plans to launch a new service in mid-2006 to let subscribers search out targeted advertising.

After introducing a generation of television viewers to the joys of skipping over ads, TiVo plans to launch a new service to let its subscribers seek out the advertisements they've cut loose from their TV viewing.

DVR (digital video recorder) maker TiVo is positioning the new service, scheduled for a mid-2006 launch, as a way for subscribers to find targeted ads in categories that interest them. The opt-in technology will let TiVo subscribers use keyword searches to look for information on specific products or services.

A group of top advertising agencies, including the Interpublic Group., Starcom MediaVest Group and Comcast cable's ad sales division, are working with TiVo to develop the ad service, which will be free for subscribers. Pricing for advertisers is still being determined.

Based in Alviso, California, TiVo reports 1.3 million subscribers for its DVR service but has never turned an annual profit in its eight-year history. By branching out into the targeted advertising business, TiVo is looking to tap a market companies like Google have so successfully exploited on the Internet.

TiVo subscribers who choose to use the search service will be able to create a customizable profile intended to tailor advertising to their interests. Throwing in lots of hedge words to soften the idea of advertising once again mingling with TV content, TiVo described the service as "non-intrusive, relevant, interactive advertising on an opt-in basis."

The move expands an interactive advertising initiative TiVo tested in August with five advertisers, including Ameriquest Capital, E-Trade Financial and Johnson & Johnson's Tylenol brand. That venture, which TiVo deemed successful, brought interactive direct advertising to TV by letting advertisers insert branded "tags" in commercial spots to encourage viewer responses.

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Stacy Cowley

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