TiVo Touts Individualized Set-Top Boxes To Guthy-Renker, Disney, NBC, Others

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TiVo Inc., Dallas, a service provider for the TiVo personalized set-top box, recently had discussions with direct response television company Guthy-Renker concerning how the DRTV firm would benefit from the use of the television device.

TiVo owns the technology of the Tivo set-top box and provides the direct service that allows consumers to pause, rewind and fast- forward live broadcasts and store up to 30 hours of television programming.

The boxes themselves are manufactured by Phillips as a singular device or packaged with DirecTV satellite service and will soon be manufactured by Sony, which also produces Microsoft's WebTV television Internet service. TiVo Inc. has a standing agreement with AOL to provide the personalized technology for its AOL TV television Internet service set-top box premiering this summer.

TiVo expects to continue adding and improving content and advertising features so it can offer more targeted programming for firms, including Blockbuster, The Discovery Networks, Disney, CBS, NBC and now Guthy-Renker.

"When we talked to Guthy-Renker in Los Angeles, they were very excited about TiVo," said Stacy Jolna, vice president of programming and media partnerships. "They felt it was an outstanding promotional opportunity. We are talking about the kinds of things we can do together to promote their programming in a more targeted fashion."

Jolna said Guthy-Renker would be able to profit from the technology in three distinct ways. The first is through a program called TiVo Direct, which allows video content to be stored on the set-top box's hard disk. The video content can only be deleted when the user fills that space with new programming, so infomercials can be stored on the hard disk along with other ads and programs.

"We see our hard drive as very rich vehicle for our promotional opportunities. The first thing anyone does when they get a new product is play with it, explore a little," said Jolna. "When a person first plugs in the device with TiVo, they will have all this programming stored for them on the hard drive to look at as part of their exploration of the device and its services."

The other two ways that Guthy-Renker would be able to benefit from TiVo involve promotional opportunities through the service itself, which is constantly updated and highly personalized to the individual consumer. An existing menu option on the TiVo main page called TiVo Network Showcase would allow it to promote its products and infomercial air times on a regular rotation.

"We can create a special showcase for their programs and find out when their infomercials are airing," said Jolna. "Though right now most of the DRTV companies are relying predominantly on channel surfers, we offer them a way to target the audience and the eyeballs in a more efficient and effective way."

The other service-based opportunity - which is still a concept under the working title of the TiVo Network - will be unveiled to consumers later this year. The TiVo Network will be a content area on the main page that is in a video-magazine format. Sponsors and content companies will be able to update the area with 3-minute video clips once a week. The proposed format of the video magazine would include anything from infomercials to film previews to programming content explicitly made by a sponsor.

"The way which we have always envisioned TiVo is that it is a broad stage on which our partners can perform for the benefit of our mutual viewers," Jolna said.

In the future, when TiVo technology will see its way into even more homes piggybacked with other set tops that combine methods of receiving television and the Internet, there will potentially lie more ways to exploit the TiVo service.

DRTV companies who sell video could use the service to not only broadcast and promote infomercials, but to allow consumers to buy and receive that product through TiVo. Through its many partners or through the TiVo service, the TiVo technology in the set-tops could also aid in interactive television capabilities such as sending consumers direct product information, integrating Web links and providing digital pocketbooks to allow the automatic purchase of products at the call to action.

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