March 28, 2005 5:17 PM PST

TiVo tests pop-up-style ads

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TiVo began testing interactive advertising tools during the weekend as it looks to appease companies wary of users' ability to skip over ads.

The company confirmed late Monday that it released the first in a series of advertising features to a random and limited number of subscribers to the digital-video recorder service. The first test feature--a tag--pops up on the screen when a viewer is fast-forwarding through an advertisement.

If viewers press the thumbs-up or select button during the half second the tag is displayed, they will be redirected to a menu that leads to more information about the advertised product. The tag takes up about 25 percent of the screen, according to the company. TiVo said it is working with only one advertiser, a movie studio, on the trial balloon.

TiVo has been developing interactive advertising technology for some time, and while advertising accounts for just a fraction of TiVo's overall revenue, it could become more substantial. The interactive features would give advertisers information on consumer interest and, possibly, better access to couch potatoes.

Interactive advertising was part of TiVo's distribution deal with Comcast announced earlier this month.

The tools will be tested only on Series2 TiVo owners, but once completed could be applied to Series 1 and DirecTiVo customers. Subscribers can't opt out of the feature, but they can ignore the tags.

"Our goal is in no way to interfere with the TiVo experience," TiVo spokesman David Shane said.

Some viewers initially experienced technical problems with the advertising tag, according to Web postings, which TiVo confirmed and said only affected a small group of those involved in the test.

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