Data-gathering firms and technology companies are aggressively matching people's TV-viewing behavior with other personal data—in some cases, prescription-drug records obtained from insurers—and using it to help advertisers buy ads targeted to shows watched by certain kinds of people.
At the same time, cable and satellite companies are testing and deploying new systems designed to show households highly targeted ads.
The goal: emulate the sophisticated tracking widely used on people's personal computers with new technology that reaches the living room.
One of the most advanced companies, Cablevision Systems Corp., has rolled out a system that can show entirely different commercials, in real time, to different households tuned to the same program. It can deliver targeted ads to all the company's three million subscribers concentrated in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey.
In an early test of Cablevision's technology, the U.S. Army used it to target four different recruitment ads to different categories of viewers.
One group, dubbed "family influencers" by Cablevision, saw an ad featuring a daughter discussing with her parents her decision to enlist. Another group, "youth ethnic I," saw an ad featuring African-American men testing and repairing machinery. A third, "youth ethnic II," saw soldiers of various ethnicities doing team activities. An Army spokesman declined to comment.
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