It's time for TiVo (NASDAQ:TIVO) to rock 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

The digital video recorder (DVR) pioneer and NBC Universal are hooking up in an ad deal, according to this morning's Wall Street Journal. NBC is the first major broadcaster to take advantage of TiVo's marketing-enhancing opportunities.

TiVo is more than just a box that records favorite shows. It has a much stronger connection to its 4.2 million subscribers. It knows what they watch and what they fly through. And the information flows both ways, as TiVo can tag ads so that sponsors' names appear even as their ads are being fast-forwarded. It can also tack on options allowing viewers to request more information about certain products or record upcoming shows.

If anything, it's a surprise to see that General Electric's (NYSE:GE) majority-owned NBC Universal is the first media giant to hop on the bandwagon. The data-mining features will be useful throughout its entire viewing base, while the ad-serving technologies will give NBC Universal a chance at incremental revenue when spots are served to active TiVo subscribers.

And now that TiVo's software is being licensed through third-party juggernauts like Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA) and DirecTV (NYSE:DTV), we could be talking about a much wider net in the future.

Strike while the strikers are striking
Obviously, these are challenging times for broadcasters. With writers on strike, the supply of new prime-time shows is drying up. Ratings -- and by proxy, sponsored revenue -- will take a hit. As broadcasters scramble to fill their slates with more than just reruns, they will need to promote the new programming content that will fill the void. That's where that handy "record this show" option on TiVo during related ads is a perfect marketing tool.

If that obscure midseason replacement or second-tier reality TV show needs a promotional boost, broadcasters will exhaust every opportunity to keep their audiences close (and their advertisers closer).

TiVo used to be merely an intriguing trend-watcher, letting us know how many homes were rewinding and pausing Janet Jackson's halftime wardrobe malfunction at the Super Bowl. Information is power, though. Why else would a company like Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) have become so adept at serving up the perfect ad, generating far more in ad revenue than its peers with more page views?

Knowing their viewers has always been a tall order for broadcasters. Conventional ratings are broken down into wide demographics, while set-top box solutions like TiVo provide access at a more personal level.

It's the future, and there's no time like the present to start rolling in that direction.

Empty cages at the zoo
Sure, most television-viewing homes don't have a TiVo. They won't see the tags or the interactive promos. However, something doesn't have to be universal to be incremental. TiVo offers a better mousetrap to an industry that wonders where its cheese went.

I compared TiVo to Bankrate (NASDAQ:RATE) last month because of the growing similarities in lead generation and the available tools for marketers to stand out in a crowd. TiVo has a long way to go, but I'm guessing the NBC peacock won't be the last critter to land in the TiVo zoo.

So make yourself comfortable, NBC (and your siblings, like Bravo and Telemundo, that are part of the deal). Those empty cages around you won't be empty forever. 

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz loves his TiVo, and he does own shares in TiVo. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.