The fundamental purpose of DVRs has always been to help people catch up on their favorite TV shows and skip commercials while doing so. But as noted by Zatz Not Funny, TiVo seems to be okay with the idea of running ads before those shows begin. The company is testing pre-roll video ads that start playing when customers view a recording.
The ad spots are noticeably low-res and worse quality than the DVR’d content that starts playing afterward, according to one TiVo owner who has been served spots for Amazon, Keurig, and Toyota. It sounds like the users can fast-forward through the ads, but doing so is “not that seamless.”
There are several potential reasons for TiVo ramping up advertising. Maybe the company plans to offer an ad-supported subscription with lower (or no) monthly fees compared to what regular customers are paying (similar to Amazon’s Kindle devices with ads). No one who has paid for a lifetime subscription or even a monthly plan will be pleased to see pre-roll ads.
TiVo also handles DVR functionality for many midsized and international cable providers. Squeezing in ads wherever possible could be something that those companies are pushing for as more of their customers spend increased time streaming shows and movies elsewhere.
CNN just ran a story on TiVo’s upcoming 2019 plans. The company is currently splitting into two businesses — one focused on patents, the other on actual products — and it will launch a TiVo Plus service next month. TiVo Plus will be free for TiVo hardware owners, and it will aggregate and recommend content based on your current subscriptions (similar to the Apple TV app). There could also be free ad-supported content a la The Roku Channel. New devices are also coming, with TiVo aiming to release a $50 dongle that runs Android TV to expand upon its base of DVR customers.