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Google Clicks With TiVo

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LR Cable News Analysis
Light Reading
11/24/2009

Advertisers that buy spots on network and cable TV will soon be able to measure exactly how millions of DVR owners digest programming, including which commercials they skip, under a licensing deal Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) struck with TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO). (See TiVo Feeds DVR Data to Google.)

That's because TiVo is selling the raw data it collects from 1.6 million standalone TiVo set-tops to the Internet giant to feed its Google TV Ads platform, which allows programmers like Bloomberg and NBC Universal to have Google sell a chunk of their ad inventories in an auction-based system. Google has a similar TV ad deal with EchoStar Corp. LLC (Nasdaq: SATS) to use data from Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) receivers.

Supplying data to media buyers that detail which ads viewers skip could prompt some advertisers to pull their spots from certain shows. But Google spokesman Eric Obenzinger says the insight would also allow advertisers to create better advertising if they’re able to track at exactly which point in a commercial a viewer changes channels.

“Our general view is more data tends to be better if it’s used properly,” Obenzinger notes.

TiVo VP and GM of audience research and measurement Todd Juenger echos that sentiment. “I’m a firm believer that the better and more precisely you can measure a form of paid media, the more advertising dollars you will ultimately attract,” Juenger says.

Although TiVo is also collecting data from set-tops in the homes of Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) subscribers and other cable providers that have licensed TiVo’s DVR software, the company is not supplying that data to Google, Juenger confirms. (See RCN Makes TiVo Its Dominant DVR, TiVo Covers Its Cable Bases , Comcast Expands TiVo Footprint , and Cox Tees Up TiVo Test Bed .)

“As we distribute more TiVos through these providers, we generally make sure we absolutely have the rights to use that data for our own purposes… In terms of... passing [that data] along to Google, that would be up to whatever deal we could strike between the service provider. For the time being none of that data is included" in the Google TV Ads deal.

He declined to comment when asked if TiVo was talking to Comcast and other providers that use TiVo about adding the data from their subscribers to the data that the DVR pioneer will supply to Google.

Google says the networks that are setting aside all or part of their ad inventories to be sold through the Google TV Ads platform reach 96 million U.S. households. According to Obenzinger, the networks that are relying on Google today are Bloomberg, Chiller, Sleuth, CNBC, MSNBC, Oxygen, SyFy, Hallmark Movie Channel, Hallmark Channel, Outdoor Network, CBS College Sports, Game Show Network, Ovation, and Sky Angel.

Google mum on TV ad inventory, revenues
Google wouldn’t disclose how much inventory its network customers set aside for Google to sell, or how much revenue it has generated. However, Obenzinger reveals these two metrics: 100 million TV ad impressions have been delivered through the system, and 30 percent of the advertisers that have purchased spots through Google TV Ads have never advertised on television before.

Juenger says it will be a “number of months” before the data TiVo is supplying to Google will be incorporated into reports that advertisers could use to make media buying decisions. “We’re just starting to deliver the data to them."

In addition to selling standalone DVRs and licensing its software to pay TV operators, the Google deal shows how TiVo is looking to make a business of selling the anonymous data that it collects from homes with its DVRs. Earlier this year, TiVo struck an agreement with Quantcast to create reports that combine online viewing and TV viewing. (See TiVo Shops Cross-Platform Ratings With Quantcast.)

— Steve Donohue, Special to Cable Digital News

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