TiVo: TV Nets Refusing to Run ‘Bolt’ Ads

TiVo claims that TV networks are refusing to allow the company to run ads on its new 4K-capable Bolt DVR because they are annoyed with the product’s ad-zapping "SkipMode" feature.  

SkipMode, a controversial component initially offered on TiVo’s new 4K-capable Bolt device and recently extended to TiVo’s family of Roamio DVRs deployed in markets such as Chicago and San Francisco, lets users skip commercial breaks in recorded shows with the click of a button.

Early on, that capability is being supported on almost two dozen channels, including the Big 4 broadcasters, for shows (except for local content and sporting events) that run each day between 4 p.m. and midnight. SkipMode can also work on TiVo Mini boxes that are connected to a Bolt or Roamio.

“We’re totally cool with viewers keeping their cable subscriptions alive and well. But we also understand that commercial interruptions are one of the biggest annoyances for many cable-goers, despite commercials being a source of revenue for the networks,” TiVo said in this blog post dated March 29. “So, when we wanted to advertise the heck out of TiVo BOLT, why did the networks refuse to run our ads? The reason? SkipMode™, one of the TiVo BOLT’s flagship features.”

TiVo’s blog item did not identify any specific broadcasters or cable networks that refused to run ads for Bolt. Multichannel News has asked the company for those and to see if SkipMode is the sole reason for their refusal.

Update: TiVo is not commenting beyond what it said in the blog posting. 

The current crop of SkipMode-enabled channels include ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, AMC, Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, TBS, FX, TLC, History, TNT, CW, Food Network, USA Network, Bravo, ABC Family (now Freeform), Syfy, Lifetime, and HGTV.

Broadcasters and other TV programmers historically have not taken kindly to ad-skipping features. In February, Dish Network and 21st Century Fox announced they had settled a lawsuit over the satellite giant’s AutoHop ad-skipping feature, agreeing to disable the feature for seven days after a program originally airs. AutoHop has been a key part of recent carriage negotiations for Dish, which agreed to disable the feature renewing carriage deals with The Walt Disney Co. (which was not part of the 2012 suit) in March 2014 and with CBS in December 2014. Comcast’s NBC Universal unit remains sole litigant in the original AutoHop suit that hasn’t announced a settlement with Dish. 

Notably, TiVo is surfacing this amid a restructuring in which it will reduce retail-focused spending while placing a greater emphasis on MVPD partnerships. TiVo is also reportedly in acquisition talks with Rovi.