Can TiVo change its stripes?

Personal video recorder company TiVo Inc. said Monday that it plans to roll out a new feature that will allow users to choose certain commercials, based on keywords, and then have them inserted into TV shows that they have recorded with their TiVo (Dave Zatz has a description of how this would work, taken from a patent application by TiVo).

That might sound a little odd considering one of the main benefits of having a TiVo is that you can fast-forward through the commercials, but it’s obvious that the PVR company is trying to find new revenue sources and is willing to consider just about anything. This new feature sounds a lot like an attempt to create a kind of Google AdWords model, but with TV instead of the Internet.

Is that even possible? Carl Howe, a former Forrester Research consultant, says he thinks it is “a brilliant idea,” — the Googlization of TiVo, he calls it (he goes even further to say that he sees Google buying TiVo because of the information it will be able to collect based on its new advertising model). Others disagree.

Om Malik, for example, notes that paying users of TiVo — who are already paying for something that others can get for virtually nothing through the PVR offered by their cable company — might be less than enamoured with the new service. AdWords works for Google because its main service is not only free, but is so useful that people don’t mind having ads served to them, not to mention the fact that the act of searching is more closely aligned with targeted ads than, say, the act of watching CSI:Miami.

Stephen Baker of BusinessWeek is also skeptical, as is Cynthia Brumfield from IPDemocracy. And I would have to say I am too — TiVo’s move seems more like a Hail Mary pass by a struggling company than anything else.