Digital video recorder manufacturer TiVo is to sell data relating to its customers’ TV viewing patterns. The information – claimed to be more detailed than any comparable research product currently available – is presented in quarterly report format, the first edition of which is now on sale.

This analyzes viewing patterns from 250 episodes of seventy primetime shows, October 2002 through February 2003. Among much other data, the report confirms advertisers’ worst nightmare: 54% of the total audience opted to skip commercials.

TiVo technology is hard-disk driven, allowing viewers’ behaviour to be monitored by the second – for example measuring the number of viewers within a given zipcode who clicked on a given commercial, sporting moment or entrance of a character within a soap.

However, privacy lobbyists need not reach for their shotguns. Although the raw data is personalized down to a single household, it is available to third parties only in consolidated and filtered form. The habits of individual users remain anonymous, assures TiVo.

Says president Martin J Yudkovitz, a former evp at NBC: “People have talked a lot about targeting since digital media was invented. The measurement is a stepping stone to making that a practical reality.

“TiVo has already changed the way people watch TV,” Yudkovitz argues. “We think it can also dramatically alter the way advertisers deliver their message and programmers determine their programming.”

Currently, under one million US homes own a TiVo but analysts forecast this number will swell to one in five households by 2005. By which time, believes Richard Fielding, director of research at media agency Starcom USA (which helped develop the report methodology), advertisers will expect discounts based on those results.

Data sourced from: New York Times; additional content by WARC staff