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Beyond the TiVo-lution 1 of 2

Joyce Schwarz
Beyond the TiVo-lution 1 of 2 Joyce Schwarz
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“The television industry is basically in the beginning stages of a nervous breakdown,” Timothy Hanlon, SVP, Starcom MediaVest Group.


When asked the question "What do you do" by non-industry types -- like my mom or the real-estate mogul in the condo down the hall -- I reply, "I do marketing consulting and write about emerging entertainment." Before their eyes glaze over and they say "What the heck is that?" I jump in and ask them if they’ve heard of TiVo -- 90 percent of the time their answer is "yes." Then I add, “I work with the people and technology creating what’s beyond TiVo”.


At first it was just a quick elevator speech retort to give people some idea of what I really do in launching emerging technology products (TiVo is not one of my clients, by the way) and services. Time after time though, it usually prompts a “Wow!” So I've kept the same explanation.


During the past month, I’ve been rethinking that "Wow." It’s time to ask -- just what the heck is beyond TiVo? And I've also been daring to -- yes, I’m about to put it in writing -- contemplate the end of TV.


Earlier this year, I did a presentation with that title at AdTech Chicago to a standing-room-only crowd. Sure, it was probably the edgy approach that hooked ‘em in, even more than the prognostications by my colleague and me. But it was their hunger and ongoing queries via email and phone that sent me on a personal and professional quest.


The task isn’t an easy one. Researching the space is as frustrating and as rewarding as assembling a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle without seeing the cover on the box. Just as you fit the pieces together offering a glimpse at the picture, the table tips upside down.


The TiVo-lution is here


The design is evolving like a nano-puzzle, self-replicating faster than you can say "program for unattended recording." The solution isn’t simple.


What is clear though, is that The Tivo-lution is here. What is not clear is who will win.


The DVR -- threatening a revolution that would destroy the economics of broadcast networks based almost solely on advertising revenues -- is ushering in an evolution of discovery for both marketers and media leaders.   


Look at the changing entertainment landscape. During the past month, a flurry of interviews and announcements focusing on emerging viewing habits and patterns has dominated the print and electronic media. The media is the news -- reminding us of Marshall McCluhan’s forecasts. Headlines chronicle the "Rise of the ‘Pod People'" (iPod owners and fans); cable giant Comcast’s launch of competitive DVRs, IPTV, VOD and iTV (interactive television) innovations; TV-2-Go technology trials like Nokia’s 3G roll-out in Pittsburgh and Sprint’s growing Mobi-TV subscriber base. Every Google search reminds us of search’s growing influence in the content arena, and Microsoft’s video ventures indicate other alternatives.  


Countering the rumors of the death of television as we know it, TiVo’s recent marketing announcements are powering forecasts on the demise of the TiVo itself. Bloggers known for their “Ti-Votion” stab at the heart of the DVR maker’s advancing technology with the finesse of carnivores in first-year biology. They dissect every development; a pro post spawns a con. “TiVo is Te-vil” taps a fan driven to distraction by the ad-tag announcement. At the same time, true “TiVo-ites” salivate over an ongoing referral plan for new followers. They eagerly share leads online, striving to capture a custom-iPod embossed with four letters -- TiVo. This carrot and the stick marketing may bring even the wayward disciples back into the fold. But it is much more that keeps them there.


Ti-Votion -- between you and me


Allegiance, reverence, loyalty, an ultimate “love brand”, brighter than any “Purple Cow,” far beyond one-to-one, a self-perpetuating feedback loop -- “Ti-Votion” is driven by the power of peer-to-peer, weaving an enmeshed marketing relationship that may be more of a phenomena than the technology. TiVo captures the essence of that evasive "between you and me" affinity. TiVo knows you like a lover. No need to ask whether you take cream and sugar with your Columbian coffee. Like the best barista at Starbucks, TiVo not only cares but also anticipates your desires. That’s why I believe TiVo is ushering in the next generation of marketing and advertising online and off, faster than any personalization software, profiling bots or search engines ever did before.


Hanlon -- that same guy who talked about TV’s nervous breakdown on CNN’s Aaron Brown show last month -- is also a believer. He is quoted as saying, “Ad agency executives who initially ignored TiVo and its DVR technology are now lauding it as an industry savior." He adds: "I look at TiVo as being first generation of the TV advertising of the future.”


It’s very possible he’s right. His firm is one of the largest media-buying companies with clients thatincluding General Motors Corp., Procter & Gamble Co and Best Buy Co. No, he doesn’t predict the end of TV yet, but he does warn, “There’s a whole witch’s brew of change coming to the linear television form.”


Tomorrow: How this TiVo-lution evolved and the rise of custom-tainment.


Joyce Schwarz has been involved in launching emerging entertainment and technology since 1990, she heads JCOM, a consulting firm for new product launches located in Marina Del Rey, California. Her background includes executive posts in all aspects of traditional media including magazines, newspapers, advertising, public relations promotion and direct response. She is a former exec at Foote Cone & Belding and has worked with more than 100 Fortune 500 brands. Joyce was one of the analysts for Web-TV’s agency and she helped launch one of the first PC/TVs at CES, Chicago in 1994.

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"Breaking Free" image via Shutterstock.

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