Best Buy Sponsors Film on TiVo

Following up on its earlier TiVo marketing campaigns, Best Buy rolled out its first movie sponsorship, linking with the digital video recorder (DVR) company to distribute a short film.

Debuting yesterday, “Waiting for Woody” is a 30-minute comedy produced by Standard Film Trust, directed by and starring Grant Heslov. The film recounts the meeting of an aspiring actor and his idol, Woody Allen, and features cameos by the likes of George Clooney and Jennifer Anniston. After viewing a clip of the movie in the TiVo Showcase area, TiVo’s 510,000 subscribers can choose to download the movie to their hard drives for viewing later.

“It reinforces us being connected to and dialed into the entertainment aspect,” said Mollie Weston, Best Buy’s manager of production services. “This is just another way we can touch our customers.”

In November, Minneapolis, Minn.-based Best Buy used TiVo as a marketing vehicle to promote its James Bond collector-edition DVD set. The promotion featured three Bond mini-films, culling together footage from the movie franchise for vignettes on 007’s gadgets, car chases, and lady friends.

Weston said the response was encouraging, with nearly half of all TiVo subscribers viewing the branded clip for an average of nearly four minutes.

Best Buy first advertised on TiVo in May for its “Go Mobile” campaign, which trumpeted Best Buy’s electronics products by offering viewers a sneak peak at a Sheryl Crow video and feng shui video clips.

That campaign fared better than the Bond promotion, garnering a 63 percent impression rate. Viewers spent an impressive average of three minutes and 36 seconds with the brand.

The move to sponsor a short film echoes the much-heralded approach taken by BMW with its series of short films distributed on the Internet. BMW has trumpeted the results of that experiment as highly successful, drawing the high-income male segment BMW targets.

Advertisers have been wary of DVR technology, which allows viewers to easily record programs and skip commercials. However, some have begun to test the waters with advertainment that compels viewers to opt-in to a brand experience. Universal Music has promoted a handful of new albums through TiVo, including the recent releases from The Counting Crows, U2, No Doubt and Vanessa Carlton.

Movie trailers have shown success using the format to feature previews, behind-the-scenes footage, and interviews with cast members. New Line Cinema used TiVo Showcase to promote “Austin Powers in Goldmember.” Ramsay said nearly two-thirds of TiVo subscribers watched the trailer, with an average stay of between six and seven minutes.

“Waiting for Woody” is the first original branded entertainment TiVo has aired. The company has been bullish about its subscriber potential, predicting it would top the 1 million mark by the end of the year.

In a conference call with analysts, TiVo’s chief executive, Mike Ramsay, said the company was getting a surge of advertiser interest in its TiVo Showcase, which features branded entertainment.

DVR penetration, however, remains small. According to Screen Digest, just 1 million U.S. households have a DVR. The researcher predicts penetration will rise to 15 million, or 14 percent, by 2006.

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