Pay-per-Click Marketing comes to Television

Tivo and Amazon have teamed up in a partnership that anyone following the two could have seen coming. It will soon be possible to click your Tivo remote and order items like the latest album from the musical guest on the David Letterman show.

The concept of using your remote to purchase stuff you see on TV is an old one but it’s never taken off.  This time, based on the success of Amazon’s one-click fulfillment platform (including the ingenious mobile version), it might just succeed. They just need to get more than 4 million Tivos into US homes.

Tivo vs. Apple TV

That was quick. I thought the distribution of home movies directly downloaded to Tivo would have been handled by the Amazon Unbox arrangement which I wrote about last week but I instead Tivo is promoting a service called One True Media.

Here’s how it works. Upload your photos and short movies to the service that allows you to add a soundtrack, titles, and simple effects. In return for your subscription ($3.99/month, $39.99/year), you will get a special Tivo subscriber’s code. Any broadband-enabled Tivo can then use this code to subscribe to anything you upload to your One True Media account. More details on the One True Media site.

While this is exciting, there is also a compelling alternative with the Apple TV which supports subscription to any Video Podcast via the iTunes store. While Tivo’s solution seems well integrated and easy to use, it still relies on the publisher to give the Tivo owner a subscription code that they manually need to put into their Tivo setup.

  1. Tivo/One True Media – $$ to publish, free to download, editing platform restricted to One True Media
  2. Apple TV/iTunes – free to publish, $$ (or free to download), use whatever editing platform you like

Historically, the more open publishing models prevail. I’m afraid that charging your publishers to upload their videos is going to limit the market to just those that want to push home movies of their kids to their grandparents. I wonder how many grandparents have an IP-enabled Tivo?

A better idea would be to set up Tivo’s to publish so all you need to do is upload your finished movies to your Tivo box via the USB port and then it’s available on a peer-to-peer network. When grandma or anyone else who browses the Tivo catalog wants to pull a file (either via one-time request or RSS subscription), the peer-to-peer network copies the file either off the seed Tivo or off any other Tivo that is hosting the file. Tivo can manage the index and use the metadata on what you watch to improve recommendations and suggest other things to watch, either from the networks or from the peer-to-peer network.

Who do you think will be the winning solution a year from now? Apple TV or Tivo?

Movies to your Tivo via Amazon Unbox

I decided to give Amazon’s new Unbox service a whirl over the weekend (they are offering $15 in credit if you register your Tivo broadband service with Amazon by April 30th) and was very pleased with the experience.

It took only a few minutes to link up my Tivo account and after that, any movie listed on the Amazon Unbox catalog was ready for one-click purchase and download.

I chose two movies (Devil Wears Prada and Little Miss Sunshine which run $3.99 each) and they began to download within minutes and were available for viewing later that evening.

You have 24 hours to view the movie from when you begin viewing and have full Tivo control over stopping, starting, rewinding and fast-forwarding through the movie. Notice the new “red flag” icon which alerts you that the movie will be deleted. Also notice the “save to VCR” option is avaialble although I didn’t try it yet.

It’s early days yet and Netflix has also mentioned that they’re in the download on demand business as well (the Netflix CEO has been quoted as saying that they’re not called “mailflix” for a reason) and from what I see here, it looks like this could be quite a compelling reason to move off of expensive cable plans for HBO and other premium channels if you’re able to get what you want via an on demand service. Add an archive of standard television series and specials and you’ve got a nice alternative to the Apple iTunes/Apple TV product.

Additional bonus is that purchases made here feed into my Amazon recommendation profile (most likely my Tivo profile as well). This will be a space to watch.

If you have a small screen, you need to be able to point it anywhere

Russell Beattie has his Tivo streaming to his cellphone and says, “who needs Location Free TV or a Slingbox if you have a TiVo sitting there already? And all those $5 a month video plans? Forget it. This is awesome stuff.”

Mass media is being sliced into ever smaller chunks. First it was the 200+ channels that allowed you to find something interesting. Tivo and the DVRs let you capture just what you wanted from the stream. Then video-on-demand let you dip into a large back-catalog of programming served up by your cable or satellite company. With video search and video archive sites you can now find pretty much anything online including regular network programming on places like iTunes if they’re going with the flow or Bit Torrent if they’re not. In this environment, the fixed video programming served up by the mobile operators feels constrictive.

Pull in your favorite shows and have Tivo suggest what else might be interesting. Use the fat pipe of your cable to catch everything and the intelligence of your Tivo box to filter out to just the stuff you want. Use the cellphone to sample the cream of the crop while you’ve got some downtime.

Orb DVREverywhere, check it out.

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Tivo Sells Out?

The LA Times reports that Tivo will now insert advertiser logos onto the screen when you fast forward through commercials. PVRBlog says:

Now, I haven’t seen any actual demos of it in action, and this comment from earlier today claims to be from a TiVo employee and says it’ll be tasteful and unobtrusive, but I have a feeling this is a bad precedent and it’ll get uglier as companies pay more for the primo space.

Debate rages as to whether these new ads will remain tasteful and unobtrusive as the other things Tivo has done or if this is the first step towards selling out screen real estate until we get the mish-mash of banners that is the Comcast’s Digital Cable interface of today. Then again, it looks like Comcast and Microsoft are up to something that will change their whole TV viewing experience as well and it looks to be for the better.

Tivo or Comcast – which would you choose?