Archives For Advertising


You probably don’t remember that Humax LCD TV with builtin TiVo… which never launched in 2005. As a clutter-free minimalist (to the best of my ability), I do. And TiVo’s new tie-up with Best Buy indicates they’re going down this path again, entering the Internet Widget TV fray under the Insignia brand:

As part of the deal, the companies also said that Best Buy would finance an effort to bring TiVo’s software and search tools to Best Buy’s own brand of consumer electronics, like its Insignia high-definition TVs.

Of course, there’s no timing info. Given TiVo’s track record of glacially slow development, I’d say we might see a tru2way television in 2011. If ever. In the interim, Best Buy will heavily pump TiVo in their retail locations while the TiVo service will push Best Buy ads and develop a streaming Napster widget.


It just so happens that Discovery Communications is based here the DC region. In fact, I used to live about two blocks from their previous HQ location (Bethesda, MD), which I’ve toured, and have known several employees over the years.

In chatting with a work buddy, I learned about a wild and creative reuse of Discovery’s Deadliest Catch billboard erected in NYC (West Side Highway & 123rd St) this spring to advertise the current season. 250 laptop sleeves, conceived and produced by 2 Oceans Promotions, have been recycled from the actual billboard (vinyl?) and distributed to employees involved with Deadliest Catch. And my friend’s wife, who works for Discovery, managed to nab ZNF one as well.

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Has TiVo, Inc Lost Its Way?

Dave Zatz —  April 26, 2009


The New York Times is out with a piece covering a number of TiVo’s advertising initiatives. Which I was ready to let go, until I came upon this beauty:

TiVo is not the only company devising a solution to commercial-skipping.

Which reinforces my frequent refrain these days. Who are TiVo’s customers? The advertising industry? Or us television-loving ‘civilians’? Back when I got on board, TiVo was the commercial skipping solution. Their core mission was to enhance my television viewing experience, with content discovery and advertising avoidance. “TV your way.” Yet, instead of building upon that foundation (how about auto-commercial skipping, enhanced suggestions and presentation, sharing wishlists or Season Passes with friends), we’re confronted with more paid advertising. In fact, if we were to tally new features introduced over the last few years, ad delivery methods and viewer metrics might top all others.

Of course, I’m a realist. As I know, and as the Times column discusses, this is the way the industry is moving. And historically, this is how television (and radio) services have largely been subsidized in America. I’m just a bit bummed TiVo isn’t quite the TV freedom advocate and innovator they once were. Even if TiVo were to offer a higher tier of ad-free service to find profitability, I doubt I’d pay up. (And there’s no way in hell I’m sullying my home with Comcast DVRs… that also feature ads.) So I’d probably feel better if TiVo started by refreshing their stale UI to more gracefully integrate advertising instead of just tacking it on in random places (like the pause menu hack job above).


I’ve been following the evolution of advertising on TV and the Web and have come up with three tenets that seem to fit the new model for companies looking to promote and sell their wares using a video platform.

  1. Make it easy to impulse buy
  2. Give away content
  3. Get viewers involved, or “engaged”

Now that the 30-second spot is on its way out, advertisers are scrambling to find the next commercial standard. No one’s settled on a single format yet, but there are commonalities among the different experiments taking place. To compare, consider the work being done by Overlay.TV online and Showtime (via Itaas and Biap) on cable TV. I spoke to Overlay.TV’s Ben Watson last month and saw Showtime’s latest demo at The Cable Show.

Overlay.TV was founded in 2007 and is putting much of its focus now on advertising solutions that link to purchasing options, add pop-up content, and slice and dice video for customizable playlists and ad insertion. For example, links embedded in Sarah McLaughlin music videos powered by Overlay.TV replicate the MTV pop-up video experience and provide viewers with direct links to buy the latest McLaughlin album. On the Jonas Brothers site, visitors can use Overlay.TV’s technology to record their own video karaoke performances. And the company has opened up its API to let people integrate the Overlay.TV solutions with their own analytics and customer information management systems. Developers seem to be responding well. According to Overlay.TV, requests for API keys have come in every day since the API was made available two months ago.

Meanwhile, the rebirth of the interactive standard EBIF for cable is leading to a wave of new advertising apps like the latest Showtime marketing tool. Built by Itaas, the application lets viewers surf through a menu of options, watch free episodes of top shows, and purchase the premium channel with a click of the remote control. Simple, but compelling. I’ve never been a Showtime subscriber, but give me free shows on a night when my DVR is looking empty, and I just might impulse buy.

There’s always a price to pay for good content, even in a new media world, but if advertising starts making my life easier and more entertaining, I’m willing to pay the piper.


TiVo’s newest form of advertising, which debuted a few months back on Series 2 units, has now begun to encroach on the Series 3/TiVoHD platform. As TiVo proclaimed in December:

Using the TiVo Pause Menu, advertisers can, for the first time, reach audiences with targeted product messages displayed within the pause screen of a Live or Timeshifted program. The feature provides an original solution for advertisers seeking to capture the fast-forwarding viewer. It’s another example of how TiVo offers unique and different solutions for advertisers looking to get viewers to watch advertisements

Software version 11.0c, which seems to consist solely of this “feature,” is currently being deployed to high-def TiVo boxes. I haven’t yet received an “upgrade,” but the initial community response has been mixed.


Two months after meeting with Digeo at CES, I’ve yet to receive a Moxi HD DVR ($800) loaner. In fact, three months after initial retail availability, there hasn’t been a single review. And the AVS silence is unprecedented: “Seems pretty sad that no one on an A/V enthusiast forum like this will admit to taking a chance on this unit.” I’ve never seen a flagship product launch go down like this. Although, given Diego’s long history of under-achievement and broken promises, I shouldn’t be surprised.

Over the weekend I surfed on by the Moxi website to learn what, if anything, is going on. And discovered a redesign that spends a lot of time talking TiVo. A Moxi-TiVo comparison is quite natural given TiVo’s status as the incumbent and really the only other retail cable DVR competitor. However, Google reports over 20 pages of TiVo mentions… which seems a bit excessive. Why not stand on your own merits? Some samples:

  • The MOXI HD DVR beats TiVo in so many areas
  • TiVo tries the same thing, but fails in the effortless department
  • TiVo strikes out by putting their fuzzy, elderly menu right on top of the program you’re (trying) to watch
  • TiVo serves ads in their pause feature. Moxi’s is free.
  • Then there’s TiVo, brazenly asking you for as much as $12.95 a month for the privilege of using something you already bought

As you might expect, Digeo doesn’t point out Moxi’s (current?) video on-demand shortcomings compared to TiVo’s Amazon VOD (soon in HD) and Netflix streaming. But several of Digeo’s jabs are valid. TiVo’s aging UI still isn’t really optimized for 16:9 HDTVs and various tacked on (HME) apps employ (slow) inconsistent interfaces. I’d also appreciate the eye candy of picture-in-guide (PiG).

Of course, Digeo’s key Moxi differentiation is bundling service versus TiVo’s additional fees (monthly or pre-paid) and ad-serving. As far as the total cost of ownership (TCO), Moxi has put together a chart illustrating that Moxi is less expensive over a four year period. However, they point to the TiVo HD XL… with double Moxi’s storage and cite the MSRP versus the street price. (Currently ~$100 less for TiVo; MSRP=street for Moxi.) So, in reality, the costs are comparable for what you get over this time period. As long as Digeo remains in business to serve guide data.

Regarding the advertising, for many of us, one of TiVo’s initial value props was the ability to bypass commercials. Yet, we’re now confronted by ads all over the UI. However, Digeo’s ad-free sales pitch rings a bit hollow… as they’ve hedged their bets with this fine print found in the footer of every relevant page: “Certain current and/or future features/services provided by third parties may contain advertising.” And even the fee-less nature of the Moxi HD DVR may be finite: “Certain future services may be offered at additional cost.” Continue Reading…


I swung by the Verizon mall kiosk today to play a bit with the Verizon Hub ($200). Unfortunately, I only had my iPhone with me and wasn’t able to take stellar photographs. But it should be clear (enough) that the promised streaming Internet radio has arrived. Verizon’s initial music source/partner is, a Clear Channel property. I was able to easily and quickly fire up DC101 for low fidelity music, emanating from the single vertical speaker seen on the right. (Of course, a loud location like this doesn’t make for the best test environment.)

While poking around Verizon’s VoIP & widget station, I also noticed a banner ad (below) for the UPS store. Not sure if this is a one off, maybe a way to integrate package tracking, or if this is what you can expect regularly from a $35/month subscription.


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