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KCBS Joins Network in Dropping TiVo Commercial

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Apparently, even television executives have feelings, especially when it comes to being denigrated on their own airwaves.

KCBS-TV in Los Angeles has joined its network in rejecting a satiric commercial for the personal video recorder TiVo that ends with a TV executive being unceremoniously tossed out of a skyscraper.

The 30-second spot, seen on the station last week during the hit network program “Survivor,” suggests the TiVo technology--designed to let people more easily record programs and thus set their own viewing schedules--makes network executives obsolete. The ad depicts a pair of burly men walking into a programmer’s office and throwing him out the window.

“Network TV executives,” the narrator says. “They decide what we watch and when we watch it. Who needs ‘em?”

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A CBS spokesman stated the network didn’t want to run a commercial that is “disparaging of the network television business,” and KCBS reached a similar conclusion after initially accepting the ad. Such decisions, the spokesman added, are up to each individual station’s general manager and not dictated by the network.

A CBS source also indicated the spot was somewhat misleading in terms of TiVo’s benefits and was submitted with the expectation networks would refuse it--a calculated means of generating additional free publicity.

Brodie Keast, TiVo’s vice president of sales and marketing, said controversy was “certainly not our goal with the spot,” pointing out that the ad is currently playing on ABC, NBC and Fox affiliated stations as well as various cable channels. “CBS is the only one having problems,” he said. “That kind of underlines that this isn’t by design.”

As for CBS’ contention the commercial is misleading, Keast said, “we certainly didn’t intend to make a documentary. We were trying to poke a little fun and deliver our message in an entertaining way.”

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CBS has shown TiVo spots before, and the ad continues to play on other CBS-owned outlets, including WCBS-TV in New York. In fact, CBS is an investor in the TiVo service, as are NBC and the Walt Disney Co., which owns ABC.

Television stations frequently broadcast ads their network declines to carry--especially those purchased by cable competitors. Commercials for Home Box Office, for example, aren’t accepted by the major broadcast networks but often appear during prime time within local slots allocated to network affiliates, a distinction usually lost on viewers.


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