It looks like TiVo has come a long way from the tagline "TV your way." It looks like we are going back to TV their way if advertisers have any say in it. Dr. Vex at blogbook.org blogged that TiVo has sold out to advertising agencies by adding a new feature to the TiVo interface which will prevent ad skipping (See the LA Times Article for the full story). Ad skipping was a much hyped feature of the TiVo when it first came out as it would enable users to watch programs without the long interruptions of commercials. This process would work similarly to fast forwarding with a VCR where you could just skip past commercials. The new “feature” will eliminate this process almost entirely, however.
The new feature will not let you simply skip ads but as Dr. Vex writes, “instead of a single forward jump, you get to have your commercials overlaid with…wait for it…commercials. But they’re TiVo commercials. Sooooo much better.” Why TiVo thinks that using other commercials will appease users makes very little sense at all. People often use TiVo to skip commercials, not to get new ones.
The TiVo commercials will be popups that allow users to enter contests, receive giveaways, or link to other ads. Further, you personal information will be sold to advertising agencies. TiVo looks to get everything it can out of this move, but the increased profits from selling your information and preventing fast forwarding may be overcome by decreased sales and use. Davina Kent, TiVo’s advertising and sales research manager, says that TiVo wants to send a message that it has a “dedicated roadmap for advertising.” Dr. Vex puts it perfectly when he says, “it’s completely unclear  unclear whether they have a dedicated roadmap for customer satisfaction.
The time shifting feature of TiVos is often the most sought after feature, but ad skipping has to be a close second. TiVo has been struggling in the market as is, why take away one of the most intriguing features of their product? It is likely in response to legislation that will make it illegal to skip commercials and therefore TiVo is getting a jump on the game now by giving users an alternate to regular commercials. This whole concept seems a bit ridiculous in light of the history of recording. There was never a restriction put on VCRs that prevented users from fast forwarding past commercials, so why now?
Obviously the advent of the TiVo and other recording devices makes recording much easier than the conventional VCR and also delivers far better quality so users are more likely to implement the DVR feature. Further, most cable and satellite providers are providing users with a DVR receiver, making the DVR feature even more widespread. It seems TiVo might actually be smart in jumping ahead of the game and giving users an alternative to not being able to do anything with commercials, however, I have my doubts that users will stand for this very long. As I said earlier, users were never restricted from fast forwarding past commercials with a VCR or with the first DVR devices. I highly doubt users will give up this feature so quickly.
It seems very likely that users will resort to “hacked” or alternate receiver devices such as MythTV which will not only allow users to skip commercials, but as other people have posted, users will be able to take the recorded media and transfer it to different media or devices. Either the legislation won’t last or the devices will out maneuver the restrictions. Where there is a will there is a way and will of DVR users is to not watch commercials.