TiVo Reportedly Rolling Out Pre-Roll Ads That Play Before Users Can Watch Recorded Video

A TiVo Wireless N adapter, 2010.
Photo: Mark Lennihan (AP)

TiVo is introducing skippable pre-roll ads before customers can watch shows taped on their retail DVRs, Light Reading reported, with a spokesperson telling the site it will be a “permanent part of the service.”

According to Light Reading, the spokesperson added that the company expects the tech “to be fully rolled-out to all eligible retail devices within 90 days.” However, the ads can be skipped using the same method already available to customers who can shoot past commercials in recorded footage, and appears to mostly apply to devices “running TiVo Experience 4, the company’s current-gen software and services platform,” Light Reading wrote. The spokesperson added that TiVo is “investing in new advertising experiences” as part of their “our ongoing commitment to bring our users the best media discovery experience possible.”

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Not surprisingly, Light Reading wrote, feedback from TiVo owners on official forums has been more than a little angry, as they already pay the company for service in the first place:

“It’s not enough they have our viewing history to sell for a profit, they now have to target us with ads,” forum member “JackMcC” wrote.

“Have not gotten those ads, and they would be totally unacceptable,” added another forum member, “MikeGuy,” noting that he might give the Amazon Recast DVR a look.

“This is truly horrifying…,” yet another member, “PSU_Sudzi,” wrote.

A video posted over at Zatz Not Funny purports to show how the pre-roll ads work, which is not so well: the transition into the ads and then again from the pre-roll into recorded content is slow and breaks up the experience.

As the Verge noted, while TiVo appears to be rolling out the pre-rolls on devices running the latest versions of TiVo Experience 4, there’s no guarantee that TiVo won’t roll them out on prior versions like TE3. Additionally, TiVo handles DVR functionality for a number of cable providers, meaning the footprint of this change could be larger than expected.

On Friday, CNN reported that as its core business struggles under waves of competition from other platforms, TiVo is plotting a rebound by “splitting its company into a patents business and a product business.” Additionally, TiVo said it will be launching a free machine learning-powered content aggregation and recommendation service for current TiVo hardware owners that highlights content from multiple streaming services including Netflix and Prime Video (TiVo Plus), as well as the cheapest TiVo device yet, a $50 dongle running Google’s Android TV.

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As CNN noted, TiVo is under significant pressure to rebuild following its fall from dominance: While it peaked at over $100 per share in 2000, and fell to $60 per share by 2011, these days it is trading around a paltry $8 per share.

“TiVo is going to have to make substantial changes to engage in this battle,” Harvard Business School professor and former TiVo board member David Yoffe told CNN. Tivo will have to figure out “how to get the cost down to be able to deliver a price-competitive product that will compete effectively against Roku and Apple TV,” he added. “That will be a big transition from where they are today.”

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[Light Reading]

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Tom McKay

"... An upperclassman who had been researching terrorist groups online." - Washington Post