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NATPE 2009: TiVos' Rogers Says DVRs Demand Innovation

NATPE '09: Complete Coverage from B&C
Las Vegas -- In stark contrast to the more optimistic tone of Lions Gate CEO Jon Feltheimer's keynote address here at the National Association of Television Program Executives conference, Tom Rogers, CEO of TiVo and Wednesday morning's NATPE keynoter, predicted doom for the TV industry if it couldn't figure out more innovative ways to connect viewers to advertising.

According to Rogers, viewers who use digital-video recorders (DVR), including TiVos, tend to skip most advertising, and the number of homes using DVRs is only increasing. Currently, some 30 million-plus homes have and use at least one DVR, and that number is expected to grow to as high as 60 million in the next three years.

With the survival of the American auto industry in question, local TV advertising is off as much as 30%, while national advertising is off some 10%, according to industry observers. While TV station executives on Wednesday predicted - or at least hoped - that the ad market would return by fourth quarter 2009, the truth is that "none of us know," said Sean Compton, senior vice president of entertainment and programming, on a Wednesday afternoon panel.

While station owners are hoping to see the advertising market come back, the onset of DVRs, online viewing and other forms of video on-demand may mean that TV advertising never returns to its former levels, Rogers said. That means station executives and the advertising community need to come up with new ways to reach viewers.

TiVo is trying to do that by adding interactive advertising to programs, which allows viewers to click on an icon if they would like to know more about a product. TiVo also offers viewers commercial information about a program when they pause the show. Viewers may click on that link to learn more or ignore it completely.

"That allows the consumer to remain in control, which is an absolute must," Rogers said.

Rogers advocated inserting ads into the TiVo interface in other ways, such as adding a message during a fast-forward.

Meanwhile, NATPE itself reflected the tough television environment. During Wednesday morning's keynote, the ballroom was half-empty, and most sessions were scarcely attended. Much of the show floor was unoccupied and curtained off, with only NBC Universal, CBS Television Distribution International and Fremantle representing among the major distributors.

While Rick Feldman, NATPE president and CEO, said Tuesday that the show would be back next year, it's possible that all exhibitors will occupy suites in the Mandalay Bay's theHOTEL.