I’ve been saying TiVo should do something like this for literally years now – ecommerce right from the couch with your remote. And now TiVo is working with Amazon to offer just that, through a new feature prosaically named ‘Product Purchase’, according to The New York Times. Say you’re watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and he’s discussing the new book written by that night’s guest. It sounds interesting, so you use the remote to order it from Amazon right there and then.
TiVo will begin offering the ability to flag broadcasts in this way to advertisers and programmers over the coming months. So that ad spot for a new DVD? You could order the DVD on the spot. Tonight’s musical guest on your favorite late night talk show sounds good? Buy their CD immediately. Oprah is hawking another book? Order it before she’s done. The outfit that cool new character on your favorite show is wearing looks good? Buy it for yourself.
You’ll also be able to add items to your Amazon cart and finalize the purchase later, online, if you want some time to think it over.
Personally I think this is fantastic. Just the kind of thing a platform like TiVo allows which is a major departure from what we’ve had to date. I know there have been a few attempts at this kind of thing through various interacting television platforms embedded in cable boxes and the like, but they were always very limited. Based on the Times report, it sounds like this functionality in TiVo could extend to pretty much any product sold through Amazon, which is just about anything.
Sure, I have some reservations. Not having see the implementation I don’t know how the interactivity is indicated on screen. I would hope that it is fairly unobtrusive. And while I don’t really care if anyone wants to overlay purchase option over an ad, just as I think the static ads while fast-forwarding through an ad for that product are perfectly fine, if this will also be available during actual program content it had better be very small, like the ‘camera’ icon you get on many DVD or Blu-ray players when the content has multiple angles available. And, like that icon, the user should be able to disable the indicator completely.
I’m also presuming there is some level of security on the purchase, some kind of PIN or password that must be entered to complete the purchase. While I prefer to keep it off, One Click purchasing on the web is one thing. But it wouldn’t be acceptable on a TiVo where any child or visitor could, deliberately or by accident, place orders.
Neither TiVo nor Amazon are fools, so I’m more than willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and believe that they’ll do a decent job with the implementation. The real key will be how many advertisers and programming providers they can sign up to create the embedded product links. TiVo and Amazon will have to make it easy, and perhaps offer some enticement, as TiVo’s total user base is fairly small. Especially as I’d bet this feature will only work on broadband connected standalone TiVos, and not the DirecTiVo nor the Comcast OCAP units, at this not initially.