Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Will Big Brother Make TV Better?

Cable companies are testing software to target commercials based on what they know or intuit about you. Could Big Brother make watching TV better for you?

Technology exists to track what you watch. Data mining techniques exist to discover who you are and what you like. What if the two were married together and harnessed to a rules engine that served up messages deemed “relevant” to you. Would you sit through a commercial pod? Be less inclined to channel surf? Or actually be interested in the stuff they were sending you?

Naturally “relevance” would be a function of how sophisticated the data models were. But assuming they got it right or gave you a say in what was served up to you, advertisers could target not only by household but by set-top box. They’d know which set the kids watch and which one you watch and send different spots to each TV, even though they might be no more than 25 feet apart.

This could actually make advertising more valuable and useful to the average viewer and create a bonanza for cable companies, who could sell much more inventory in smaller discretely targeted batches. At this point the gating factor seems to be cost to cable operators and proof of technical accuracy.


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