Summary:

The maker of advanced set-top boxes acquires an audience research company on the leading edge of tying insight into what consumers buy to the advertising they see on television.

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TiVo has made a bold step away from its roots as a pioneering manufacturer of DVR set-top boxes and toward a possible future as a leading TV audience research company.

On Tuesday, Alviso, Calif.-based TiVo announced its $20 million purchase of TRA Inc., a technology company lauded by TV networks and their advertising clients for its work in developing so-called “single source” audience research.

In a nutshell, TRA matches the actual purchasing behavior of 1.5 million U.S. homes to the advertising they’re exposed to on TV. (TiVo’s advanced set-top boxes are already used to collect data in many of those domiciles.)

Madison Avenue has sought this kind of research capability since the advent of the internet, and TRA has been among the closest to making it a reality.

The company touts more than 45 brand clients, including Procter & Gamble and Oscar Meyer; it also has 27 TV network clients, including CBS, A&E and ION Media. Starcom MediaVest Group is among the big ad agencies that use its data.

Also read: New TiVo box takes on Slingbox, streams to tablets

With TiVo’s cash resources, not to mention its installed base of advanced set-tops, TRA can now compete with top-level audience research companies like Nielsen and Rentrak.

“TiVo has been a valued investor and data partner of TRA for several years, making this combination a natural next step for TRA,” said Mark Lieberman, chairman and CEO of TRA, in a statement. “TiVo understands that the existing measurement tools, which haven’t kept up with advances in technology, just don’t get the job done.”

TRA has raised $31.7 million in funding from sources including Kodiak Venture Partners, WPP, Intel Capital and Arbitron.

Added TiVo president and CEO Tom Rogers in the same prepared statement: “With this new level of unique audience insights and analytics, TiVo will be able to provide insights nobody else has in an industry increasingly seeking alternative ways to measure audience behavior accurately while increasing efficiencies in media spending.”

TiVo expects the transaction to close later this month.

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