InteracTiVoty – TiVo Users and DVR Advertising - Margret Schmidt - MediaBizBlogger

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Users buy DVRs to enjoy their favorite shows, but if every home gets a DVR, and we all fast-forward through commercials, then who is going to pay for the TV shows we love to watch?


TiVo will revolutionize television advertising

TiVo is designing and deploying the future of DVR-based advertising. We see it as key to the survival of "free" TV. Our challenge is to put relevant and interesting advertising in front of users at a time and a place where they want to engage with it. We apply the same rigors of "design, test, iterate" to our advertising features that we do to DVR features. It is important that we find the right balance of advertising in a DVR experience.

It's about the TiVo users

We know we are adding advertising to a device that most users purchased in order to avoid advertising. We feel the tug of that conflict. Users want television without advertising, yet television without advertising can't survive. DVR advertising without user acceptance won't survive either, so we need to make it acceptable (even enjoyable) for our users.

Don't get in the way of user tasks

We don't let advertising on TiVo get in the way of our users' primary tasks. When an ad is presented in a navigational menu, like TiVo Central or a Now Playing Group, it is the last item in the list. It has always been optional for users to click on or view an ad. When we added the "Discovery Bar" to the new TiVo Search (an area at the top of the screen where users could explore recommended TV shows and movies) we found users actually liked (yes, I said liked) that advertising content was mixed in with entertainment content. When users are in a mood to discover something new, interesting and relevant advertising becomes enjoyable.

We track three metrics

As we innovate and evolve our advertising platform, we keep an eye on various user metrics. When our numbers dip below our goals, we evaluate what we are doing and make adjustments.

Types of TiVo advertising consumers

We find our users about evenly divided into one of following categories: those who never click on an interactive ad, those who infrequently interact with one, and those who regularly click on interactive ads on their TiVo DVR. About half of our interactive ad viewership each month is from these regular visitors. When users have great experiences with interactive ads they are more likely to try them again in the future. It only takes a few experiences with dull, uninformative, misleading, or confusing ads to discourage them from clicking on them again.

It all comes down to the ad itself

While we can be diligent in the design and presentation of our advertising features, the most significant influences on user acceptance of DVR advertising are the appeal and relevance of the campaign, and the quality of the creative. The ad needs to be something that users want to interact with.

So, while TiVo can't make everyone love advertising, we have found a reasonable balance for our users and our advertisers. We must remember that this is all in the good cause of saving the TV shows we love.

Margret Schmidt is Vice President of User Experience for TiVo Inc. Follow her at

Other articles by Margret:

InteracTiVoty: Getting to Know DVR Users

InteracTiVoty: Designing for TV: Keep It Simple

InteracTiVoty: Why We "Test" our TV UI Designs

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