TiVo’s growth has stopped, and in fact, its user base is dropping. There’s too much competition in the DVR market from the big cable companies who offer the same service at a lower price bundled with the cable boxes you need to have anyway. So TiVo needs a way to make more money. Selling customer data is always a good way to do that.
Now, to be clear, this data will be anonymous, and TiVo has actually been doing this to some extent for several years. But tomorrow, the company plans to unveil a better challenger to Nielsen, the leader in TV audience data, USA Today reports. This type of data is vital to television advertisers because it dictates their ad sales. And TiVo thinks it can provide better data for more markets by using its 3 million plus subscribers, to dish out data that can be broken down by the second.
TiVo is trying to play up the fact that such data can be useful to not only advertisers, but to television shows themselves. This way, they can see what parts of shows people skip through — so news shows, for example, can better tailor key content. But this is really about the advertisers, who will want to know what ads people are skipping through, and at what times, during what programs. I’ll make this simple: While not all DVR owners may skip through all commercials, I would bet that anyone who took the initiative to buy a TiVo — a separate box that costs a few hundred dollars and requires a subscription fee on top of your cable bill — skips through just about all commercials, period.
This data from TiVo will apparently come from all but the smallest of the 210 television markets. That’s nice, as it’s a lot more than Nielsen, which generally just offers constant in-depth reports for the largest markets. But Nielsen’s data undoubtedly covers a much wider range of the overall population. In fact, that idea led to the most curious line in USA Today’s piece as stated by TiVo’s audience research and measurement general manager, Todd Juenger. He says, that on top of being richer and better educated, TiVo owners tend to be “unfortunately, a little more white” (than the overall population).
Perhaps TiVo should just publish its data directly to Stuff White People Like.
Seriously though, as a former TiVo owner, I feel for the company. It offers a truly great product, but it’s simply hard for most people to justify paying to put yet another box in their increasingly cluttered living rooms — and asking them to pay yet another monthly fee for it. The cable companies DVRs are absolutely dreadful, but they are cheaper, and come in cable boxes.
The company is making some right moves by offering other services, like Netflix Watch Instantly and Amazon’s streaming movie service on its boxes, but it still has to give a reason for users to pay a relatively high monthly fee for the TiVo service. TiVo can sell all the data it wants, but unless it can reverse the trend of subscribers leaving the service behind, none of that will matter.