TiVo Is Watching When You Don’t Watch, and It Tattles

TiVo Is Watching When You Don't Watch, and It Tattles 1AS the advertising and television industries debate how to measure viewers of shows watched on digital video recorders, the pioneering maker of the recorders, TiVo, is getting into the argument. It is starting a research division to sell data about how its 4.4 million users watch commercials — or, more often, skip them.

The service is based on an analysis of the second-by-second viewing patterns of a nightly sample of 20,000 TiVo users, whose recorders report back to TiVo on what was watched and when.

On average, TiVo has found that its users spend nearly half of their television time watching programs recorded earlier. And viewers of those recorded shows skip about 70 percent of the commercials, said Todd Juenger, TiVo’s vice president for audience research.

But TiVo says that at a more detailed level there are wide variations in the numbers. The new research service, which is intended mainly for advertisers, could help them understand how to get more people to watch recorded commercials, like changing the content of ads or running them during certain kinds of programming.

For example, one study for a consumer packaged goods company, which Mr. Juenger declined to identify, found that commercials featuring animal characters, when shown on animal-related programs, were skipped less often than usual.


Some advertising executives said they were excited at the prospect of having access to data from TiVo recorders, which can offer some details that are not captured in the industry’s standard ratings by Nielsen Media Research.

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