Google Tags TiVo For Set-Top Data

Google will combine second-by-second set-top data from TiVo with data from Dish Network, which will let the Web giant track the viewing habits associated with more than 5 million TV sets -- and sell ads with more precision.

With the additional data, Google will be able to "substantially enhance the measurement and accountability" of ad impressions for inventory sold using the Google TV Ads auction-based system, according to the companies.

"Data is a very important linchpin of the system, and one of our priorities is to expand the size of the data set," said Mike Steib, Google's director of emerging platforms, who oversees the television-advertising business. "We feel very good about the accuracy we have now... but any statistician will tell you the larger your sample size is the better your results will be."

Financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

TiVo is selling Google data gathered only from DVRs used by consumers who subscribe directly through the company (excluding those distributed via DirecTV or Comcast). TiVo had 1.6 million direct subscriptions as of the end of July; it is scheduled to report third quarter results on Tuesday.

Google isn't saying when the TiVo data will be merged with the data it collects from more than 4 million Dish receivers, but Steib said "it's not trivial to bring all this set-top box data together."

Google will "continue to grow our set-top box footprint and you can expect us to add cable set-top data," Steib added.

Launched in 2007, Google TV Ads has served more than 100 billion TV ad impressions to date, the company claims. Google has a deal with Dish Network to sell local ad inventory for 100 networks carried on the satellite service and also sells select national inventory for about a dozen networks, including CBS College Sports, Bloomberg TV, and NBC Universal's CNBC, MSNBC and Syfy.

Advertisers pay for ad impressions as extrapolated to a national TV audience from the Dish set-top data, and now the TiVo data will be in the mix. Google provides targeting tools for planning and executing TV ad buys, and has overlaid demographic data from Equifax on the set-top database to find optimal show placements based on an advertiser's criteria.

Steib claimed Google is doing business with "every major agency" at this point, including Mediabrands Worldwide and Universal McCann.

TiVo also sells anonymized data from its standalone subscribers to market-research firm TRA, but the Google deal represents "the first time our data will be used in a currency situation," said Todd Juenger, vice president and general manager of TiVo's audience research and measurement business.

Separately, a group of media companies, ad agencies and advertisers have formed the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement, whose mission is to fund new approaches to TV audience measurement -- including using set-top data (see CIMM: Ready, Set-Top, Go?). TiVo, along with Nielsen, Rentrak, TNS Media Research and TRA, are among the companies providing input to CIMM on that front.