The U.S. Public Broadcasting Service has partnered with San Jose, U.S.-based TiVo, one of the leading creators of digital video recorders (DVR), to develop PBS’s programming-on-demand business. ‘PBS recognizes that viewers are going to time-shift programming and organize content according to their own preferences,’ says Deron Triff, senior director of digital content strategy for PBS. ‘We’re looking at different strategies that allow us to influence the way content is managed and accessed.’
The alliance with TiVo will progress over the next six months and will look at the promotional and technical possibilities of DVRs. The latter involves finessing PBS’s program descriptors. DVRs have the ability to search, suggest and record programs similar to shows already requested by the user. In today’s competitive broadcast market, PBS wants to ensure its programs are flagged.
‘We’ve concluded that there needs to be some reorganization of our data, because of the way the TiVo box looks for things and spits out content,’ says Triff. ‘Over the next six months, we’ll refine our program descriptors so it appropriately maps to the way TiVo is organized and looks for content.’
PBS will begin testing promotional opportunities available through DVRs with its 9/11-related programming, ‘We Remember’. In addition to being able to time-shift programming, TiVo subscribers can view special highlights from PBS’s 9/11 schedule, as well as material that won’t be available by broadcast. Jim Monroe, executive producer at TiVo says, ‘TiVo is a great promotional tool for broadcasters to get audiences for their programming, which isn’t what you hear when people talk about TiVo in the TV industry. This is a chance to really prove this is the case.’
Both parties say the alliance could become more permanent. Explains Triff, ‘We’ll quantify the percentage increase in the visibility of our content. So, we will run 25 programs through our receiver six months from now and hope to see a higher return. We’ll measure what percentage of people who watched a trailer actually set the DVR to record, and how many times they watch the same program. Basically, we’re measuring impact. That data will determine whether we continue.’
TiVo has similar partnerships with broadcasters NBC and HBO, but neither are as extensive as the PBS alliance.