TiVo to sell data on programs, ads its customers watch; says individuals won't be identified

Tuesday, June 3rd 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- TiVo Inc., the leading maker of digital television recorders, is offering advertisers and broadcasters information on the commercials and shows its users are watching.

Digital video recorders let viewers record programs onto a large-capacity hard drive rather than a tape cassette, pause live television and fast-forward through commercials. The machines also can detect their users' viewing preferences and record similar programs they might not otherwise watch.

Because the devices periodically connect to TiVo's central computer servers to download programming information on a subscription basis, the San Jose-based company can collect detailed data on its 700,000 subscribers' viewing habits.

TiVo executives said Monday they will gather viewing information only in aggregate, such as by ZIP code, rather than individually. The habits of individual users will remain anonymous.

"Our audience measurement capabilities will offer broadcasters and advertisers an unprecedented, detailed look at how viewers consume programming and advertising," said Martin J. Yudkovitz, TiVo's president.

TiVo pioneered digital video recorders in 1999, and was quickly followed by ReplayTV, which does not yet sell viewing data to advertisers.

TiVo expects its programming information subscribers to reach 1 million by the end of the year. Some analysts predict that 20 percent of American households will have digital video recorders by 2005.