TiVo, the personal video recorder (PVR) company as ubiquitous in the US as its UK equivalent Sky+, is coming to the UK, the company and Virgin Media announced yesterday.
According to the TiVo and Virgin announcement, TiVo will product the interface of Virgin's next generation set top boxes. The boxes will provide a converged digital high definition (HD) TV and broadband experience. The first co-branded product is expected in 2010.
TiVo president and CEO Tom Rogers said he envisaged the deal as a "long term, strategic partnership with Virgin Media."
"TiVo will offer Virgin Media's nearly four million UK customers TiVo's advanced television software and user interface on both its traditional and DVR set top boxes, including TiVo's broadband to the television capabilities," added Rogers.
TiVo also announced a partnership with Google to track viewing habits in the US.
The Google-TiVo ad data deal means TiVo will share anonymous viewing trends collected from its base of subscribers with Google. Google will use that data to help its advertisers understand who they're reaching - and who they aren't - when buying television ads through the company's AdWords TV Ads system.
"None of this is being used to actually target an individual," explains Google spokesperson Eric Obenzinger. "It's more about delivering more accurate reporting back to advertisers so they can inform their future budgeting decisions."
So what does the data actually include? First and foremost, absolutely nothing about who you are.
"When we say that this is all anonymous data, we mean that it is literally anonymous in the strictest definition of the term," says Todd Juenger, vice president & general manager of TiVo Audience Research & Measurement. "We don't collect anything about where it came from."
What TiVo does collect is a log of what commercials you watched and what commercials you skipped. It's like an advanced ratings system, taking TiVo's DVR functionality into account.
"We know that some set top box out there pressed play on a certain network at a certain time - then we know they hit fast forward, hit pause, and hit play," Juenger says. "You do that across a million and a half set top boxes, and you get a collective picture of what percentage of people were watching a certain commercial at a given time."
JR Rapheal contributed to this story