So much for it being an early, experimental test. TiVo has confirmed that it plans to place pre-roll video advertisements before DVR recordings for all customers — even those with a lifetime subscription plan. “DVR advertising is going to be a permanent part of the service,” a company spokesperson flatly told Light Reading. “We expect to be fully rolled out to all eligible retail devices within 90 days.”
“Eligible” retail devices are those running TiVo Experience 4, the latest software version. If your TiVo box is up to date, you can expect to start seeing these inserted commercials before your DVR’d show or movie starts playing. But it’s also possible TiVo will extend these ads to products on TE3, so I wouldn’t exactly count yourself safe there.
TiVo’s defense of this decision, which many customers are likely to be upset about, is that you’ve got the ability to skip the ad as soon as it starts up.
“We’re dedicated to innovation that helps our customers stay in control of how, when, and what they watch. Advertising is an important part of every media business and TiVo is investing in new advertising experiences. We have designed our new DVR advertising units with the ability to ‘skip’ ads anytime a customer hits ‘skip.’ This is part of our ongoing commitment to bring our users the best media discovery experience possible.”
The ads might be skippable, but as a video posted at Zatz Not Funny shows, it’s a sluggish transition between pre-roll commercials and content.
Customers on TiVo’s forums are reacting just the way you’d expect them to, and there are a bunch that say they’ll quit on the service and hardware altogether once they start seeing pre-roll ads when they sit down to watch something. An email I got after the story broke yesterday is filled with the same sentiment. “I logged into my TiVo account immediately and sent them a notice that if they start forcing ads on me for a service that I am paying for, that’ll be the end of TiVo for me. I’ve been using a TiVo in one form or another since the Series II came out. I currently run a Bolt Vox OTA, a Mini, and an old Toshiba DVD unit.” Some are having success by calling TiVo customer support and requesting that the ads be disabled, though I’m not sure if that’ll actually pan out.
Others seem willing to put up with it. “I don’t want that 20-second ad, but if it helps support the company that allows me to watch TV on my time/terms, I’ll bite,” wrote forum user MScottC. “I am not about to blow my own gasket over this. I’ll protest, I’ll email, but I won’t start screaming that I’m dumping TiVo for an alternative, when in reality, no better alternative has shown up over 20 years.”