Vizio, the Irvine, Calif.-based maker of good-quality, low-cost TV sets, on Monday filed paperwork for its initial public offering with the set goal of raising $172.5 million. This is happening just as the TV set marketplace is facing slumping sales, but Vizio has seen increasing sales.
However, the IPO filing revealed more than just Vizio's increasing business. It also revealed that Vizio has the ability to track what its customers are watching, whether it's a DVD, a game, cable TV or any number of other platforms.
Vizio is using an automatic content recognition system called Inscape. It can pull more than 100 billion points of anonymized information from 8 million TV sets a day.
Vizio could use this data to show advertisers how many people are watching Vizio TV sets. That could benefit Vizio by helping it take some of the multibillion dollars in annual ad sales out of the hands of ad agencies and put it in Vizio's pocket.
It can also share the information with studios to supplement the usual ratings systems. Overall, it could dramatically shift the way TV shows are programmed and the way TV commercials are bought and sold.
Of course, it could become a public relations headache for Vizio. It isn't the first company to track what users are doing, and past revelations haven't been met with applause from consumers.
Komando.com reported earlier this year that Samsung TVs are listening to you. Even though those TVs only passed along recognizable voice commands, and you can opt out, Samsung still saw a huge backlash. That's why Vizio is quick to say you can opt out of Inscape as well.
Vizio claims that the tracking will benefit its customers. It can ensure that its customers are seeing commercials of interest to them. And, more to the point, Vizio can personalize its customers' TV viewing experience by suggesting TV shows and other content they may like, based on what they're already watching.
Does that sound like a fair deal to you, or will you be disabling Inscape? Let us know in the comments.