TiVo And AT&T Partner On U-Verse Ad Data

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February 13, 2012 – 12:09 am

tivoFresh from last month's $215 million legal settlement between AT&T and TiVo over DVR patents, the two have struck a licensing agreement to share and collect audience data covering the AT&T U-Verse IPTV system.

The deal has TiVo making use of U-Verse audience research and ad inventory from AT&T AdWorks, the telco's online ad network. The data, all collected anonymously the two say, will be combined with TiVo's household data, buttressing the 2 million DVR homes with U-Verse TV's coverage, which includes 3.8 million subscribers and over 9 million set-top boxes deployed in 22 states across the U.S. And on the mobile side, the video service has 100 million subscribers.

In addition to increasing the amount of consumer information TiVo can study, AT&T Adworks also claims to have deals with Fortune 500 companies. Tara Maitra, TiVo's SVP/GM for Content and Media Sales, said the partnership reflects the growth of on-demand viewing -- for example, most TiVo households now watch more over-the-top programing than live TV content -- and the need for a wider scope of data than one company alone can adequately provide to marketers.

"We believe this deal will bring a host of benefits to all sides of the media ecosystem; at TiVo, we are looking forward to using this anonymous viewing data from AT&T AdWorks to help project a better sampling of U.S. television viewing habits," Maitra said in a statement.

The partnership's scope is fairly limited, however. But the door is open to expanded data sharing. A TiVo rep told TVExchanger that the purpose of the data license is to enable TiVo to expand its ability to understand consumers' TV viewing patterns by analyzing AT&T's anonymous U-verse TV data, which is then coupled with the DVR provider's own anonymous usage data. TiVo may incorporate AT&T's data into a future revision of our Stop||Watch second-by-second ratings tool at some point, but it will see how this get-to-know-you phase works out.

January's settlement between the two has AT&T paying TiVo at least $215 million through June 2018.  The telco could pay up to $300 million if subscriptions to its U-verse television package rise in line with AT&T forecasts, the AP reported at the time. It was the second major DVR patent settlement in TiVo's favor. Last May, Dish Network and its set-top box provider, EchoStar Corp., agreed to pay the DVR company  $500 million to end a long-running legal battle over patent infringement.

All these settlements and new data agreements certainly leaves TiVo in a better position after experiencing a down period that included subscriber losses. But things have turned around on that front since Q3 last year. In addition, TiVo has signed deals with Charter Communications and DirecTV, which came on top of arrangements with Cox and Comcast.

TiVo has been very smart about who it partners with. Years ago, when ad agencies and TV networks had regarded the DVR as a threat that would make it all too easy for viewers to skip commercials, while time-shifted viewing would erode the value of primetime schedules altogether. TiVo responded to those fears with its Showcase product, which encouraged ad agencies and marketers as partners, while TiVo also calmed networks by providing more data about the shows being watched.

Now that its patents are looking more and more secure, it's likely that TiVo's value will grow, as MSOs, TV networks, agencies and marketers are more desperate for deeper analysis about viewers' activity. Even as cable companies develop their own DVR offerings, it's likely that TiVo and its competitors will end up as long-term "frenemies" after all.

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February 13, 2012 – 12:09 am

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