N.B I have no inside information it just makes sense
Note for non-brits: Sky+ is a Personal Video Recorder linked to the main satellite TV supplier in the UK, Sky which is owned in part by News International... who own Fox and the Sun
Thanks to the Mrs we've now got Sky+ and a wonderful thing it is as well. What is odd about it though is that there is 80Gb taken up by Sky for whatever they want, leaving me with 80Gb left to record programmes. Given we haven't actually recorded a TV programme in about 3 years this isn't a big issue, although we have recorded 8 in the first week of Sky+, but it got me thinking about what Sky could do with that space.
Then I saw the Google tie up and I suddenly though. What would I do if I had over 40 hours of available space on a hard-drive? Sure I'd use some of it to start pumping Video on Demand at people but I'd also be looking at ways to increase the effectiveness of advertising spend.
What I'd look to do would be pay a premium to advertisers to have their adverts pre-loaded onto the boxes, these adverts would then be played at targeted users based on both their current viewing and what Sky/Google knows about them. So you watch football, golf and Oz Clarke, you get the adverts for a Spanish Wine/Football/Golf holiday. You are watching Big Brother and Sky know you already have a mobile, well today's programme isn't sponsored by Carphone Warehouse, its sponsored by Direct Line insurance because your car policy is up for renewal. Watching lots of ITV? Then here comes the debt consolidation advert just for you.
One of the big challenges of TV advertising is this problem of advertisements being broadcast like a sawn off shotgun at long range at viewers with a hope that someone will get hit. Having even 5 hours of 30 second adverts (600 adverts) would be a very powerful proposition for companies because unlike the broadcast adverts they could apply on every channel so when you skip channels you would still see the same adverts because after all its the box that controls what you watch. Sky have a big advantage here over someone like TiVo in that everyone knows that Sky is the company that makes the box and Sky is the company that controls the box and that you pay all the money to Sky to watch the TV. This gives them a high degree of control that isn't quite so available right now in the US market.
So what would it take to build such a solution? Well firstly you need the content on the disk, this is trivial you just have a trickle feed on the 2nd tuner (Sky+ has two tuners) that builds up the adverts, which are after all pretty smart, and then you need a set of smart user to advert matching technology, step in Google which needs some information about the user, hello Sky.
I'm really struggling to see what would stop Sky rolling this out on all of their own channels (clearly ITV would be upset if they did it across all the channels) and what the major technical challenges would be.
Maybe this is the way that TV adverts survive, they stop being broadcast and start being "served" from the PVR and you watch them because they are something that you want to see. Its a little bit scary but it would seem to make a hell of a lot of financial sense. Hell using a bit of fancy streaming they could really personalise it so the advert would say "Steve, get off your fat arse and get down to Globo Gym today".
Targeted adverts in a real-time or recorded broadcast stream using adverts served from a hard-disk. Bagsy on the patent.