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The Patriots didn't win; Britney did.
February 5, 2002 5:15 AM   Subscribe

The Patriots didn't win; Britney did. TiVo analyzed their viewers behavior during the Superbowl and they came up with some pretty interesting results. How soon till TV programming adapts to viewer behavior?
posted by costas (36 comments total)

 
Ok... rethinking the need for a digital video recorder. I had no idea that they tracked stuff like this. That's more than a little scary.

I hope this doesn't mean that Pepsi will decide to run the Britney commercial ALL the time now. YIKES!
posted by FreezBoy at 5:45 AM on February 5, 2002


Why is it scary exactly? What the hell do I care if the people that run Tivo know what I watch?
posted by revbrian at 6:02 AM on February 5, 2002


Thank God for this, I say. The more my tv knows what I watch the quicker we can get rid of all the superflous crap on the tube, show me what I'm interested in.
posted by owillis at 6:09 AM on February 5, 2002


I don't think it's scary either. I am a data-miner; retailers, manufacturers, banks already collect terabytes of information on anything that we do. By itself, these data are useless: aggregated, it's powerful stuff.

Data-mining, customer relationship management, etc to me are a modern-day agora. In ancient Greece, the agora was the market; it was also where people gathered to express political views. Democracy was quite literally being driven in/by the market. Today, when you are shopping, clicking, channel- and web-surfing you are also voting. That's cool, methinks. Check out the Economist's survey of the "real-time" economy. Some very interesting stuff.

Also, blatant self-plug but somewhat on-topic: I've been thinking about content reacting to reader behavior with respect to the web. So, I built a little automated weblog to see if it can work. Interestingly, that's how I found this Wired link in the first place...
posted by costas at 6:12 AM on February 5, 2002


costas, this looks motherfunky! I've joined up, so I'll know more later.
posted by walrus at 6:26 AM on February 5, 2002


Very intersting on two levels. First, there are strains of Max Headroom (caution - noisy flash) in this.

Second, consider that Nielsen (the Big Kahuna of audience research) pays families for plugging their equipment into household televisions to measure what the family watches. Here the household pays TiVo. Down the road TiVo should be able to provide broadcasters and advertisers with ratings that are more accurate (the cost of wiring homes limits Nielsen's sample size) and less expensive (the consumer actually covers the cost to TiVo of their own participation). At the same time, the consumer gets a neat toy at the lowest possible price (TiVo can sell the boxes at cost because they'll actually make more money by getting more boxes in more households).
posted by dchase at 6:26 AM on February 5, 2002


It struck me as scary because it's not tracking only what you're watching, but the habits you exhibit while you're watching - where you're pausing, what you're re-watching, etc. This goes far beyond the simple demographics that the Nielsen system collects.
Especially in this knee-jerk lock-em-all-up-in-order-to-protect-the-country climate, do you really want to give someone the chance to wonder why you're watching that doc on Osama on PBS again and freezing it at a certain point?

Am I being paranoid, or do I just not want it getting out that I watch the Victoria's Secret ABC fashion show and Queer as Folk.
posted by FreezBoy at 6:30 AM on February 5, 2002


owilliswhacking--find a thread with the name Britney in it without a comment by him.
posted by y2karl at 6:40 AM on February 5, 2002


walrus: thanks; I am working on it constantly, so please pardon the dust, but it is working and it's good enough for daily browsing. I plan to add more advanced filtering when/if there are more people using it --really cool filtering ala Amazon needs a lot of users to provide diverse enough data points...
posted by costas at 6:40 AM on February 5, 2002


mememigotoo!
posted by y2karl at 6:49 AM on February 5, 2002


There's nothing scary in the way TiVo collects data -- it's all aggregated, there is no name or other identifier attached to any individual's viewing data. Check out the privacy policy.
posted by luser at 6:50 AM on February 5, 2002


This goes far beyond the simple demographics that the Nielsen system collects

Actually, it only goes beyond what Nielsen collects in that it can detect pausing and re-viewing. If Nielsen has their equipment attached to your televisions, it will be in their database that you watched Victoria's Secret or Queer as Folk. The privacy question arises over what is done with that data and who has access to data at the most granular level. If TiVo's license agreement states that they only share aggregate data (Hey Showtime, 2080 households watched Queer as Folk last night) and not personally identifiable info (Hey Showtime, FreezBoy watched Queer as Folk last night), then you are being paranoid. Note, also, that TiVo doesn't have your demographic information unless you actually gave it to them (AFAIK, TiVo doesn't require you to provide such info to use their box).
posted by dchase at 6:51 AM on February 5, 2002


luser - There's nothing scary in the way TiVo collects data -- it's all aggregated, there is no name or other identifier attached to any individual's viewing data. Check out the privacy policy.

Bullshit. Your name is in there, as is your credit card, home address, etc. etc. They claim they are not currently selling your full slate of individual data.

Anyone else remember Amazon's "never" privacy policy...?
posted by NortonDC at 6:55 AM on February 5, 2002


owilliswhacking--find a thread with the name Britney in it without a comment by him

Umm. Umm. Umm....
*runs and hides, as he knows that's probably impossible*
posted by owillis at 6:57 AM on February 5, 2002


I find this rather disturbing, as a Tivo owner.
posted by rushmc at 7:51 AM on February 5, 2002


Add me to the list of Tivo owners who are a little creeped out. Even if they never claim to do anything with the information, they're monitoring every press of the remote, and that kind of stuff has a way of getting into other hands. Remember Kenneth Starr trying to find out what books Monica Lewinsky purchased from a store?
posted by rcade at 8:37 AM on February 5, 2002


Favorite line from the article:

"The devices work like a VCR, with a hard drive and an interactive programming guide that is periodically updated via telephone or Internet connection."

Yeah, all VCRs have that.
posted by kindall at 8:44 AM on February 5, 2002


This post at Slashdot does a good job at explaining Tivo's privacy policy, which says that any data collected from its subscribers is completely anonymous. Also, it's possible for subscribers to opt-out of any data collection. All of this has been verified by the Tivo user community who've looked at the data coming out of their boxes.
posted by adrianhon at 9:02 AM on February 5, 2002


they're monitoring every press of the remote

This is no different than a webmaster examining the weblogs, and compiling statistics about ever page visited and every link clicked. Does that weird you out, too?
posted by crunchland at 9:15 AM on February 5, 2002


crunchland - The webmaster owns the server. I own the Tivo.
posted by NortonDC at 9:38 AM on February 5, 2002


Also, I can compile statistics about what a specific IP address does on my web server, but because most IP addresses are shared, that is effectively anonymous.

On a Tivo, however, it's only anonymous while the company ignores information that is readily available to it.
posted by rcade at 10:07 AM on February 5, 2002


owilliswhacking--find a thread with the name Britney in it without a comment by him

7944
11295
10531

There may be more. I didn't bother checking.
posted by iceberg273 at 10:22 AM on February 5, 2002


I own the TiVo

You might want to check that license agreement again...
posted by kindall at 10:39 AM on February 5, 2002


I own the Tivo.

And your browser, I suppose?
posted by walrus at 10:50 AM on February 5, 2002


You may own the hardware but not the service just as you no doubt own your computer but not the browser or website.

Unsubscribe from your Tivo service subscription and and there's no need for you to worry.

Then unplug your computer, telephone and television, don't walk in public places, don't use a credit card, build an underground bunker and hibernate... :)
posted by MarkBakalor at 10:59 AM on February 5, 2002


owilliswhacking--find a thread with the name Britney in it without a comment by him

I thought owillis was the only person Britney would confide in. Isn't that why we have the BritneyBlog?
posted by LeLiLo at 11:09 AM on February 5, 2002


Ah, ready capitulation is a lovely thing to behold....
posted by rushmc at 11:11 AM on February 5, 2002


I think all TiVo owners already know that TiVo collects certain aggregate data, and either are okay with that or have opted out. What I suspect is making people a little uneasy is that they didn't (I certainly didn't) know that TiVo could or did monitor use of the Pause and Replay buttons.

While that monitoring is certainly not prohibited by the privacy policy, the fact is that it's not mentioned at all. "'Anonymous Viewing Information means information about viewing choices that you and those in your household make while using your DVR ... This information allows TiVo to know that a subscriber from a particular zip code watched certain programming but we are unable to associate those viewing choices with you." The policy gives the impression that information about whether you watch a particular show is gathered, but does not make clear that how you watch the show is also monitored.
posted by nickmark at 11:31 AM on February 5, 2002


MarkB - Unsubscribe from your Tivo service subscription and and there's no need for you to worry.

It is no longer possible to purchase a Tivo without a service agreement.
posted by NortonDC at 12:00 PM on February 5, 2002


What I suspect is making people a little uneasy is that they didn't (I certainly didn't) know that TiVo could or did monitor use of the Pause and Replay buttons.

Oh my God! Tivo knows how many times during the Superbowl I had to pause my Tivo to go release my beer!!! I bet Anheuser-Busch will wanna buy this data!!!
(proud owner of 2 Tivo's)
posted by Sal Amander at 1:06 PM on February 5, 2002


I thought owillis was the only person Britney would confide in.
She has to be in public with that Justin fella, because the world is just not ready...
posted by owillis at 1:40 PM on February 5, 2002


It is no longer possible to purchase a Tivo without a service agreement

As you say, Bullshit.

Tivo on Ebay.

And, having read the Tivo packet disassembly, I'm sure my CC isn't in the upload, nor is my name. Just a subsriber code during transition, which is not preserved on the other side. It could be, but it isn't.....yet.
posted by dwivian at 2:02 PM on February 5, 2002


Fine. It's no longer possible to purchase a new Tivo without a service agreement.

I feel much more protected now.
posted by NortonDC at 3:22 PM on February 5, 2002


Well... I was going to say, I just bought a new second tivo -- a directv and tivo combined. When I called to activate the directv part of it, I was given the option to activate the tivo subscription, too. It was definitely an option, since I had been led to believe that since I had another tivo, adding the second tivo would be free. It wasn't, and when I protested, I was told that I didn't need to activate the service.

So... do you feel any more protected? You can buy a tivo, and use it as a glorified vcr if you really, really want to.
posted by crunchland at 3:32 PM on February 5, 2002


I find this rather disturbing, as a Tivo owner.

I'm surprised that Tivo isn't asking people to sign releases or making it clear what they're able to do and doing. That's one of the problems with the 'datamining equals paradise argument' the companies that do it know its the kiss of death if they specifically ask to watch your surfing habits without some kind of incentive. What if Tivo becomes the next Neilsons and you don't get a penny back from the networks? Pay your ten bucks a month and don't ask questions.

Second, every attempt I've made with the data miners to give me a more personalized ad experiece turned out to be complete crap. They're always going to push certain products to every demographic and most the assumptions I get, especially at amazon, are just ridiculous. I'm hard pressed to find any difference between random ads and targeted ads. Yeah, with enough time they can figure out who my favorite authors are, but I can do that search myself.

Anyway, here's to the obligatory upcoming campaign to opt-out of Tivo data mining. In a perfect world people would be reading the tiny print, but they don't and companies love to exploit that fact. Why does opt-in sound ridiculous and opt-out sound normal. It should be the other way around.
posted by skallas at 4:03 PM on February 5, 2002


I have no handy citations. My info came from message board postings on a site I do not frequent, pointed to (perhaps by /.) back when some breakthrough was made regarding hacking Tivos. The clearly informed participants were discussing the the possibility of buying Tivos, having them never call home, and setting up their own free alternative to the world's most expensive TV listings service. The consensus was that since the recent software licensing for the basic operational software within the unit required a subscription, it was pointless.

That's what I'm going on.

It may be that your existing subscription satisfied the requirement for the other unit's basic operating software, crunchland. Or it may be that the licensing has changed. I would welcome authoritative information on this.
posted by NortonDC at 4:07 PM on February 5, 2002


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