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Love in the time of TiVo

The maker of the popular DVR plays Cupid by sponsoring a Valentine's mixer for TV-loving San Francisco singles.

SAN FRANCISCO--Some TiVo fanatics call their connection to the gadget a deep, meaningful relationship.

But Monday night at the swank downtown W San Francisco hotel here, hundreds of would-be paramours used their love of the smart TV device to find a real-life date for Valentine's Day--that lovers' holiday that alternately inspires hope, lust, disgust and self-loathing.

Singles of all stripes--from a 65-year-old retiree to a 25-year-old engineer--came out for the , a digital-era variety of the swinging singles party, but for commercial-zappers or thirsty types out for a couple of free drinks.

"TiVo makes people more isolated, but now I'm getting out because of TiVo."
--Virginia Yang, participant in TiVo singles event

As many as 200 people who had preregistered online with TiVo just days before lined up to get a name tag that showed off their top two TV shows, favorite actor or director, and hobby. Hidden on the back of the tag were the names of three people TiVo had matched to participants through a simple mathematical program.

Organizers from the marketing team at TiVo then urged singles to "find a match that's worth an instant replay."

Needless to say, many conversations were time-delayed, much like recorded shows, until singletons downed a cocktail from the hotel's open bar.

Virginia Yang, a 25-year-old engineer at a local technology company whose favorite shows are "Modern Marvels" and "Family Guy," called the event "really cool." "TiVo makes people more isolated, but now I'm getting out because of TiVo."

Yang's friend, Daniel Witriol, a 28-year-old Microsoft engineer visiting from Seattle, said the event was much better than speed dating because people had time to talk and an easy opener. Still, both Yang and Witriol stuck close to each other like friends at a school dance.

Too close for comfort?

Others, such as Matt, an engineer who works near the ballpark in San Francisco, met new people instantly by scouting for the girls on his match list. In a kind of tag-team approach to finding a date, Matt, whose interests were listed as "Soundstage," "Law & Order," "Chris Walken" and "Ultimate Fighting," helped a French woman find a guy named Ravi, who was listed on the back of her name tag, by asking men in the room their names.

Matt found Ravi, who then joined a growing cadre of singles on a plush couch at the W. In turn, the French girl periodically jumped up and asked various girls if they were the Mei on Matt's list of matches.

Mitch, a 23-year-old tech consultant whose favorites were "Lost," "West Wing" and "Natalie Portman," was desperately silly to find at least one of the women on his list by the end of the night. After winning a free TiVo box and lifetime service in a raffle, he yelled into the mike, "Is anyone Alison, Stephanie or Samantha?"

Like Mitch, most people in the room failed to find a match from the back of their name tag, and those who did weren't impressed.

Michael, a burly 6-foot-5-inch guy who works at a local tech consulting company and whose interests included "Battlestar Galactica," said he met a woman on his love list who was too close for comfort.

"My build, science fiction. If I wanted to date myself, I'd be all set," he said.

He added that TiVo dating was a cool, gimmicky idea. "It's an ice-breaker, at least."

TiVo marketers learned something more about San Francisco Bay Area singles, too, in their first attempt at this kind of matchmaking event. Most people who RSVP'd for the event liked shows like "Lost," "24," "The Daily Show," and "Grey's Anatomy." Hobbies included hiking, biking, snowboarding, travel and independent music artists. And singles listed Angelina Jolie, Cary Grant and Johnny Depp as most desirable actors.

Still, TiVo isn't planning to launch a new dating business from the event, said Katie Ho, vice president of consumer marketing for the company. "There's no super scientific results behind this game," she said.

That's why, it appears, most of the guests will be back to the TiVo on Valentine's Day.