TiVo To Sell DVR Tracking Data, But NBC's Not Buying It

A day after TiVo announced it will sell second-by-second data as a way to gauge DVR behavior, NBC's top research executive says his network has no intention of buying it. The principal reason: his belief that the TiVo universe is vastly different from the population at large--since it's comprised mostly of early-adopters who behave differently than "mainstream customers."

As a result, it's possible that people in the 4.4 million homes with TiVo are more rabid commercial skippers than those who recently began using generic DVRs provided by MSOs.

"(TiVo users are) going to be the ones with the most extreme behavior, whether it's 'I never watch live TV, I never watch a commercial,'" says Alan Wurtzel, NBC Universal's president of television research.

Wurtzel says he's concerned that the data tracking DVR behavior in the TiVo universe will receive significant publicity and create false impressions about general DVR behavior. He refers to the TiVo universe as "a small subset of the DVR population and (people) who are very atypical because most of them tend to be early-adopters or people who are very technologically oriented, because they're the ones who bought the stand-alone box."



TiVo plans to sell data tracking DVR usage in 20,000 of its homes each day. The 20,000 homes will be selected at random--and, although researchers will be able to gauge which commercials are viewed and for how long, they will not be provided with any information on demographic characteristics of individual users.

Wurtzel says he would not consider purchasing the data unless it contains the demo breakdowns--specifically which members of the sample are "early-adopters" and which are more recent purchasers. He says Nielsen data provides the "most accurate"--although "not perfect"--gauge.

Todd Juenger, a TiVo vice president, says the TiVo universe encompasses a range of individuals, and is not limited to early-adopters. He says behavior in TiVo homes is "a good proxy for the DVR universe."

"It's the best window into a future world, which is not far away, where everybody agrees there'll be 50 to 55 million DVRs...we believe there is no better window into that stark reality of a universe than the data we provide today," he says.

Lyle Schwartz, executive vice president/director of broadcast research at Mediaedge:cia, agrees with the contention that the TiVo universe does not provide "a direct correlation to what's going to happen in the general market." But he suggests the data could still provide some valuable insight. For example, he says, the second-by-second data can give a sense of which commercials create viewer engagement, such as "how people are flowing from commercial to commercial (and) are they looking at a commercial before turning it off?"

Schwartz says he is not sure whether his agency will purchase the data service, but will evaluate the cost/benefit relationship.

Nissan and OMD have already bought the system, and TiVo's Juenger says multiple networks and agencies have expressed an interest.

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