SAN JOSE — The results are in from the digital video recorder set: Britney Spears beat the men on the field in the Super Bowl instant replay department.
While millions of Americans watched the annual pro football championship, TiVo Inc. was monitoring the viewing habits of 10,000 of its 280,000 subscribers.
The leading maker of digital video recorders used its technology to analyze which football plays or TV ads its subscribers chose to view again or to see in slow motion.
TiVo viewers did more instant replays of Super Bowl commercials than of the game itself, and the Pepsi ads featuring Spears were the MVP, said John Ghashghai, TiVo’s director of audience research.
Other popular replays included a General Motors Cadillac ad accompanied by Led Zeppelin’s 30-year-old song “Rock and Roll,” and a Bud Light commercial spoofing cable TV’s “BattleBots” battles.
Of the football action, the game-winning field goal garnered the most replay attention.
TiVo did not release actual numbers on how many times viewers used instant-replay or slow-motion functions. But it said the special features were used an average of 44 times per household during the broadcast.
The analysis — TiVo’s largest of a single, live television event — is the kind of information broadcasters, content distributors and advertisers could use to direct tailored messages as more American households embrace DVRs.
Already, the NFL has been paying TiVo for so-called “audience measurement” data. It learned, for instance, that a Budweiser commercial received the most pause-and-replays during an earlier wild-card playoff game.
Other advertisers and networks have worked with TiVo in the past for similar data.
“As this analysis shows, the growth in the use of TiVo technology can have a profound impact on how the Super Bowl audiences of the future will watch and interact with the broadcast,” said TiVo’s chief executive, Mike Ramsay.
The company would not disclose how much it charges businesses such as the NFL for such marketing research.
Digital video recorders have been slow to take off, but market research firm Forrester Research projects that the number of U.S. households with a digital video recorder will grow from the current 800,000 to 42 million by 2006. The other big name in DVRs is ReplayTV, owned by SONICblue.
The devices work like a VCR, with a hard drive and an interactive programming guide that is periodically updated via telephone or Internet connection.
Subscribers can pause live television, skip commercials and automatically choose programs to record with an intelligent search function.
At the same time, DVRs can monitor viewer habits and even record shows automatically based on a viewer’s apparent preferences.
Privacy advocates have decried such technologies as invasive, but TiVo officials say they do not pass along information that would identify individual viewers.
When gathering customer marketing research, TiVo says it does not link viewer data to their name, gender or age — only into one big database that can identify users by ZIP code.
If DVRs do take off as expected, such powerful information could become valuable revenue generators for TiVo and other companies seeking to customize television viewing, analysts say. But it could become problematic if they are not careful.
“It’s a fine line between where consumers might get frightened — ’Are they getting watched?’ — versus TiVo and others wanting to make our viewing experiences better and more tailored to our interests,” said Greg Ireland, an industry analyst with the Gartner Group market research firm.
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