Polly wants a cracker

Coffee art!

Will Tivo make networks love reality TV?

Tivo has finally announced that it’s going to start selling information on its users’ TV-watching habits. For privacy watchdogs, this isn’t news; Tivo has been planning to do this for some time. But what’s interesting is the early results of its data-mining.

As you probably recall, TV network executives freaked out in all directions when Tivo was first launched. The service made it insanely easy to skip past ads; once you’d recorded a show, you could blast through three or four minutes of ads in a matter of seconds. So the big question for TV network executives was, how to battle this evil menace?

Easy: Convince people to watch TV live, instead of recording it. Tivo’s ad-skipping capabilities are greatly diminished when TV is played live. But what types of TV will people watch live? Mostly reality TV, it seems, as Tivo noted in its press release of today. The release is here, but it’s in PDF format, so here’s an excerpt:

The report also showed “stickness” of the programs varied greatly depending on genre. Situation comedies and General Drama programs tended to have the lowest retention and commercial viewing rate. Reality TV, News and “event” programs often scored significantly better in their ability to retain viewers in programming and during commercials because more viewers tended to watch these programs “live”.

More evidence that Reality TV is among the best programming online, despite the carping that it’s destroying western civilization.

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I'm Clive Thompson, the author of Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds for the Better (Penguin Press). You can order the book now at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powells, Indiebound, or through your local bookstore! I'm also a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine and a columnist for Wired magazine. Email is here or ping me via the antiquated form of AOL IM (pomeranian99).

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