Marie-Jose Klaver on Fri, 6 Nov 1998 18:40:39 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> WebTV views viewer

WebTV views viewers

Karen J. Bannan
Inter@active Week/ZDNet, 12 October 1998

Microsoft Corp.'s WebTV Networks Inc. is quietly using a system-polling feature
that can extrapolate subscriber information from each of its 450,000 users to
better serve advertisers, said Steve Perlman, president of WebTV.

The polling, which takes place nightly, uploads television and Web site viewing
habits back to the system. The data makes it possible for WebTV to scrutinize
not only what subscribers are watching, but also what they are clicking on or
surfing away from, Perlman said. The polling results are offered to advertisers
in an aggregate format; however, because results are grouped by ZIP code and
contain demographic data compiled from WebTV viewers' polls, it can help them
target ads more effectively.

"We have a whole department that does nothing but look at the information. If
someone is watching a car ad and clicks through, we can send them to the
closest car dealership Web site," Perlman said. "The balance is providing
advertisers with useful information while still protecting the subscribers."
WebTV already protects its subscribers from Internet cookies - markers that
track what sites people visit on the Web.

"I don't think people understand the extent of this. It's recording everything
they do. This is like having a video camera on them 24 hours a day," said Tom
Rheinlander, an analyst at Forrester Research Inc.

The polling will take a giant step into the realm of cable TV in 1999.
Tele-Communications Inc. and other cable operators are expected to deploy more
than 5 million set-top boxes that will ship with Windows CE and the Solo chip,
bringing WebTV to cable.

Today, WebTV informs its subscribers about the polling.  Next year, Perlman
said, customers will have the option of turning individual tracking on and off
at will. This will allow advertisers to send ads to single households, not just
ZIP codes.

Sean Kaldor, vice president of International Data Corp.'s Consumer Device
Research, said this could translate into greater ad revenue for Microsoft. "But
it could also work out well for subscribers. They may get lower or free
subscriptions for enabling this level of tracking," Kaldor said. "Is it going
to happen? I doubt it, but it's a nice thought." 

Copyright (c) 1998 ZD, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction in whole or in
part in any form or medium without express written permission of ZD, Inc. is
prohibited. Inter@ctive Week and the Inter@ctive Week logo are trademarks of
ZD, Inc. 

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