Networks Will Soon Be Tracking Us So They Can Send Targeted Ads Directly to Our TVs

Affectionate couple holding hands, watching TV in living room

If you’re not a fan of ads following you on the internet, you might not like this new idea being hatched by the TV networks. They’re hard at work at figuring out a way to serve up ads specifically tailored to smaller segments of their audience.

The new trend is "addressable ads” that allow TV ads to be targeted to specific users based on their personal data. According to Axios, “By the end of this year, almost every major TV network and provider will have rolled out their version of an addressable ad product.”

The intent is that by making these ads more personal, they will improve our experience of watching TV. It’s an initiative being driven by the shift of viewers away from cable and network TV to streaming services such as Netflix, YouTube, and other program alternatives, many with no ads at all.

They think we will prefer this new approach —  targeted ads rather than normal ads — but they may be kidding themselves. None of us like ads, and many don’t like ads that are targeted based on our personal information. It’s invasive and creepy at the same time. In addition, many watch TV shows on a time delay, using a video recorder to fast-forward right through the ads. In fact, the new TiVos even emit a beep on certain shows, alerting you to push a button on the remote to skip through the entire commercial.

Currently, the networks sell ads based on the gender and age of the audience and not their specific demographics. For example, have you noticed all the ads for prescription drugs on the evening newscasts? That’s because their audience is heavily skewed to seniors.

So, how will addressable ads work? The networks and cable companies will track us on the web and use our home location to dish up ads that are more relevant. They’ll be targeting a much smaller segment, but with a higher likelihood of interest, much like Facebook. That makes the ads less expensive and potentially more effective.

It seems that much of this initiative may be wishful thinking. Most of us avoid ads of all kinds, so the first hurdle is to get us to watch any ads at all. With many now rebelling against Facebook and Google tracking us more and more, will more of these targeted ads counter our dislike of being tracked by more companies? Once they do start accessing our information from our TV watching habits, it’s a small step before they want more, such as accessing our conversations in our living room and bedroom and showing us ads related to what we talk about. One could say this is being paranoid, but one could look at how far Facebook has gone. Their new in-home video camera, Portal, is now monitoring phone conversations. Most of these companies have Facebook envy and are simply trying to follow their lead to capture some of the advertising dollars.

So, welcome to more spying and more invasion of privacy. No longer do you need to be on the web to be tracked. It can now be done without us even getting off the couch.