Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Watch. Like. BUY.

About a decade ago, I was running the new media ventures of a large specialty electronics and gifts company. While the web was my primary focus, I still experimented with a few offbeat ideas. One was from the country's largest cable company: they wanted to introduce one-click buying of items that were featured in certain television shows.

It worked like this: the cable company would get advance viewings of upcoming episodes of popular shows. They would then look for products in the shows, and find retailers who sold them. Then, after making deals with people like me, when the show actually ran, there would be a little pop-up on screen, inviting you to buy the item for $X, and it would be billed to your cable bill, and sent to the house where your cable service was. Thus, you'd be watching an episode of Friends, and see a cool stereo; the pop-up would come up, and with one click of the remote, you could have Ross and Rachel's very own jukebox. Slick, huh? Of course, it never happened or worked; don't ask me why.

Well, Tivo's looking for more revenue, so, like a bad rerun of an old mummy movie, or DIVX, this idea has returned from the dead. Leveraging their Amazon partnership for Unbox (now Amazon On Demand), Tivo has announced a way to allow people to use their remote to buy the items they see featured in a program, even a live one. Helpfully, the New York Times points out "...if a viewer chooses to buy an advertised item during a broadcast, TiVo records the rest of the program so the viewer can easily return to it after the purchase. TiVo users will also be able to save their intended purchases in their Amazon account and return to the site later to complete the transaction."

For Tivo's sake, I hope this works. They need a silver bullet, as being slaves to DirecTV or Comcast clearly ain't doing it. Here's to hoping good old fashioned capitalism saves them and makes them ubiquitous.

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