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What is TiVo up to with TRA?

You are what you watch. Or, rather, you buy what you watch. That may be the thinking behind TiVo’s approximately $20 million purchase of metric-tracking company TRA, announced yesterday, a buyout that will give the DVR company greater insight into the parallels between the shopping and viewing habits of its users.

According to the announcement of the deal released by TiVo, “the acquisition is expected to create a powerful combination of insights that will offer the TV advertising industry Internet-level measurement and accountability accelerating TiVo’s position in the billion dollar television analytics business.” If you’re wondering just what that means, the easiest way to describe it is that it’ll allow TiVo to harvest more focused information on whether or not what you buy is affected by what you watch on television, giving the company the chance to potentially uncover either previously undiscovered demographics – We expect This Old House viewers to shop at Home Depot, for example, but what if they also turn out to be avid book readers or have private Cheetos habits? – or create ever-more-focused target markets for advertisers by identifying which shows are best for a particular brand to concentrate on. “We believe television is at an inflection point,” TiVo president Tom Rogers told the New York Times. “In the digital realm you measure click by click and get increasingly granular information. This kind of metric has not developed well in the television space before now.”

TiVo has a long-standing history with TRA (which stands for The Right Audience); the two companies initially came together in 2008 when the latter company licensed TiVo’s Audience Research Metrics to launch the combined viewing/purchasing data for the first time. At the time, TiVo’s VP and GM of Audience Research & Measurement Todd Juenger, called the partnership “the result of a shared vision for the future of advertising research and an ongoing commitment to help the media industry better understand the effectiveness of ad campaigns,” adding that the combination of metrics created “the most powerful, comprehensive research tool for measuring advertising efficacy and ROI of media spend – bar none.”

Amongst TRA’s current client database – said to include 45 advertising brands and 27 television networks – are CBS Corporation, A&E Television Networks and Proctor & Gamble. CBS’ chief research officer David Poltrack sees TiVo’s purchase of TRA as a good thing, saying that his company is “pleased to see these two leading innovators come together to continue their efforts to connect viewing with purchases and prove the return on investment of television.”

The purchase means that existing plans to expand TRA’s operations will be enhanced, according to company chairman Mark Lieberman, who’ll stay in charge of operations after the buyout is completed. That suits TiVo’s Rogers fine; he’s already thinking of the big picture for the property. “[The potential of TRA’s information] gets away from the assumption of what broad demographics do,” he says, “and brings it down to the reality of what actual people do.” Prepare to get granular, advertisers.

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