Vizio IPO plan shows how its TVs track what you're watching

While the past few years have been tough for many TV makers (Panasonic, Pioneer, Toshiba, Sony, just to name a few), Vizio has continued to grow its business, and now it's ready to go public. Vizio has made its name with impressive value-priced TVs that don't skimp on features (it's also a leader in the soundbar market, and has made attempts at selling tablets and phones too). According to the filing, Vizio has sold more than 15 million smart TVs, with about 61 percent of them connected as of the end of June. While viewers are benefiting from those connections, streaming over 3 billion hours of content, Vizio says it's watching them too, with Inscape software embedded in the screens that can track anything you're playing on it -- even if it's from cable TV, videogame systems and streaming devices.

We've never heard of Inscape before, but as explained in the S-1 Vizio filed today, it's based on ACR (automatic content recognition) software licensed from a third party, and viewers can opt-out of participating in it while maintaining other connected features. That's actually fairly common in modern TVs, and others like LG and Samsung have already rolled out features based on the tech to do things like integrate with TV shows, or display ads based on what the TV is showing. ACR software recognizes the video being displayed, matches it up and phones home the data. According to Vizio, its Inscape platform can pull some 100 billion anonymized datapoints from 8 million of its connected TVs every day. That kind of data can be used for ratings, and is valuable to both advertisers and content providers.

If all goes according to plan, that will mean more content directed towards Vizio TVs, which it hopes will lead to more sales as customers choose its platform. Vizio says this kind of data can help deliver the kind of personalized experiences people want, but we wonder if most people really understand their TV is phoning home data on any and everything they might be watching, even if it's not through one of the built-in apps. One way or another, when the gavel drops and VZIO starts trading on the market, if you own a connected Vizio TV, you'll be counted as an ongoing part of its $3 billion per year business.

The Vizio M-Series 4K TVs

Inscape Data Services

Our Inscape data services have the ability to collect viewing behavior from any content displayed on the screens of our Smart TVs. We currently collect viewing behavior on most content that connects to our Smart TVs via external input. However, we do not currently collect viewing behavior streamed through VIZIO Internet Apps Plus or on Smart TVs located outside the United States....To date, we have entered into data licensing agreements with several analytics service providers and are in discussions with additional potential licensees of our data.

Inscape data services' ability to collect and measure viewing behavior data from content displayed on our entertainment products positions us at the center of the connected entertainment ecosystem. Our Smart TVs can collect viewing data behavior from all media sources that connect via external input to our Smart TVs (e.g., set top boxes, digital video recorders, streaming media players, blu-ray and DVD players and gaming consoles), which generates a richer data set than can be obtained from any single media source. We can deliver this richer data set to advertisers and media content providers, who in turn can deliver more relevant, personalized content for viewers, enhancing the consumer entertainment experience.