TiVo, everyone's favorite DVR maker, has just signed an agreement with Google to hand over tons of data on its users habits for analysis. The upshot: Advertisements are going to be even more targeted and personal. It's how Internet TV ads will work in the future.
What TiVo gets is raw revenue, courtesy of Google's TV Ads service. In exchange, Google gets accurate second-by-second data on which TiVo users of which types are watching which content at which times. That's going to be absolutely invaluable to Google, since it constitutes an incredibly rich data pile to help understand what shows people are viewing. And if you're worried about privacy, you needn't—Google's only getting anonymized information.
The real trick inside this deal, of course, is that Google will most certainly not be concentrating on which shows TiVo users are watching. Instead it'll be examining in great detail which ads people are watching, and how long they watch them before skipping through or changing the channel. This information can let advertisers design more personalized adverts and ones that keep user attention for longer. It will also help them to place ad breaks in a more targeted manner. Once Google works out precisely how much attention users pay to which commercials, they can determine pricing structures in a far more accurate way than Nielsen's ratings, which concentrate mainly on which shows people are viewing.
Like it or not, this is a demonstration of how TV advertising will work in the future, when online streamed TV begins to snap up significant market share from the networks and cable. The data much being handed to Google by TiVo will enable advertisers to adjust which adverts are included almost on the fly—bringing the benefits of reaching their target audience far more precisely than ever before. As a viewer you'll benefit from ads that are more likely to be of interest to you—if you're a glass-half-full optimist anyway. If you're already concerned about ads permeating your life, then this is probably not good news.