TiVo, CBS Team Up to Promote New Fall Shows

Embracing a media technology once feared by commercial television as the industry's boogeyman, the CBS (CBSA) network has teamed up with TiVo Inc. (TIVO) to help promote its new fall shows.

In a first-of-its-kind deal between one of the Big Three U.S. broadcasters and the leading maker of digital video recorders, TiVo users will be able to watch the pilot episode of CBS's upcoming sitcom "The Class" a full week before its prime-time premiere.

"The Class" pilot will be delivered to TiVo subscribers along with a separate package of brief clips of CBS's three other new series debuting this fall — hour-long dramas "Jericho," "Smith" and "Shark," the two companies said on Tuesday.

"The Class," about a twentysomething guy who rekindles friendships with several old third-grade pals, will be offered through TiVo on a commercial-free basis, followed by a string of one-minute promos for 11 returning CBS shows.

TiVo's system enables viewers to record and store programs on computer hard drives built into their own home set-top boxes. But it has become especially popular for the very feature that has spooked TV broadcasters and advertisers the most — the ability to skip over commercials.

Still, recent media studies have found that TiVo users are particularly avid fans of the most popular shows on television, suggesting they are worth cultivating as the networks seek to build audiences for new programs.

"We're not rewarding bad behavior. That technology is here to stay," CBS marketing group president George Schweitzer said of DVRs and its users' ad-skipping habits.

"We first thought it would be the boogeyman, and then we found out that people who use TiVo watch television more, they're much more involved in what they see, and we want these people to watch our shows so they can tell other people how good they are," he told Reuters.

TiVo is not the only novel approach CBS and other networks are using to promote their wares on alternative platforms.

On Monday, CBS began offering its pilot episodes of "The Class" and "Shark" as part of its "Eye on America" in-flight programming aboard American Airlines jets, Schweitzer said.

The major networks also are using various online gimmicks to reach new viewers.