Commentary

TiVo Is (Still) The Enemy

Response to last week's column--much appreciated, by the way--in which I expressed alarm that TiVo's decision to sync with iPods might curb rich media growth, was pretty consistent in its rejection of my gloomy prognosis.

TiVotees and non-Tivotees alike said it was healthy for content technology companies to dive headfirst into the online business world's present spirit of sharing and mutual aid--where content distributors and content publishers go hoarse singing the praises of collaboration.

Most TiVo subscribers confirmed what recent studies have found--that they get their fair share of TV ad messages either by spotting logos in fast forward, or by actually stopping for a particularly inviting spot. And, either way, "must watch" TV spots are inevitable, they insist (which doesn't make too much sense seeing that such a model runs in direct opposition to TiVo's modus operandi).

For the record, my critique of TiVo was clearly not meant as a legitimate condemnation of the company. Its business is its own, and it has as much of an obligation to respect the interests of the rich media community as it does the alignment of the stars and the moon.

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My words were only a warning to you--my dear reader--that another potentially destabilizing change had taken place in the shifting landscape on which many brave souls have chosen to place their livelihoods.

Even as a warning it was harmless, given that I so weaselly hedged it with several counterpoints: that TiVo's existing service allowing consumers to transfer recorded programs to laptops and smartphones has yet to sink pre-roll; the complexity of getting TiVoed TV onto one's iPod; and the service's modest user base.

And what was by far my biggest hedge against any real prospect that TiVo had bumped off rich media and pre-roll for good--i.e., the market's ability to correct itself at warp speed--seems to have actually occurred. In a freaking week! I'm referring of course to TiVo's Monday announcement that it will partner with all the big agencies--Interpublic, Omnicom, Publicis, The Richard Group--to develop a feature that lets subscribers search TV for advertising that's to their taste.

No, the news isn't a clear win for publishers, agencies, tech companies or consumers. But it is evidence that all four groups are still angling for position, and not a one knows their fate for sure. So, as I said last week: The only thing I know for sure at this point: TiVo is the enemy!

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