I'm not so sure I like the direction TiVo is starting to go in…
So here it is, the story I hinted at earlier (which went to press a night early): TiVo Is No Longer Skipping Past Advertisers.
Coming soon to the standalone TiVo OS: when you hit fast forward to skip past commercials, small banner ads will show up on your screen. You'll be able to click them to get more info, see an informercial, or send your home address details to get more info about a product mailed to you.
I think this is a dark day for TiVo, and this new feature is aimed at pleasing TV Networks and advertisers. I doubt a single customer would ever ask for this kind of feature, and that it happens while you skip commercials just drives the point home. TiVo is no longer TV your way, it's TV their way.
People get TiVos for different reasons, mostly it's for the time shifting nature, but the close second most loved feature has to be the ability to fast forward through ads. The advertising TiVo has added so far has been minimal impact. The commercial showcases that show up on your main menu aren't that bad and often have good ad shorts and information, but pushing that into the main TV watching interface seems like a spectacularly bad move. No longer are the ads an optional thing you can dig for more, they're soon going to be pushed in front of you when you use a key feature of the product.
Now, I haven't seen any actual demos of it in action, and this comment from earlier today claims to be from a TiVo employee and says it'll be tasteful and unobtrusive, but I have a feeling this is a bad precedent and it'll get uglier as companies pay more for the primo space.
Also on the horizon: plans to enable purchases via your remote (fine by me, if you're really interested, why not make it easy to buy), and someday letting networks and ad agencies mine the data on TiVo use, which I also think is a fine idea if it means better shows and better advertising. But overall, I'm not happy to hear the fast forward button was sold to advertisers today. That was the killer feature for so many, and to see it changed to force ads on customers isn't going to make those customers happy.
Updated: November 17, 2004 (ET)
The news just keeps getting better . The copyright bill in front of the house would make skipping commercials illegal:
The bill would also permit people to use technology to skip objectionable content – like a gory or sexually explicit scene – in films, a right that consumers already have. However, under the proposed language, viewers would not be allowed to use software or devices to skip commericals or promotional announcements “that would otherwise be performed or displayed before, during or after the performance of the motion picture,” like the previews on a DVD.