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Some Roku smart TVs are now showing banner ads over live TV


A Roku streaming box. It seems these ads aren't appearing on Roku's own hardware like this device; instead, they're appearing on TVs that license Roku's software platform.
Enlarge / A Roku streaming box. It seems these ads aren’t appearing on Roku’s own hardware like this device; instead, they’re appearing on TVs that license Roku’s software platform.

Some Roku smart TV owners are seeing banner ads appear over live content, according to a thread on the r/cordcutters subreddit.

A user named p3t3or posted the following message:

Welp, this is the last time I purchase or recommend a Roku. After a Sleep Number commercial, I just got a Roku ad sidebar while watching live TV. Really loved the Roku experience up until now, but this is a deal breaker.

The message was accompanied by the following photo:

An ad appears over a sports game on a Sharp-branded TV running Roku software.
Enlarge / An ad appears over a sports game on a Sharp-branded TV running Roku software.

The photo shows a Sharp TV running Roku software and displaying an ad for a bed over a live sports broadcast, plus a prompt to ‘press OK to get offer.”

These ads don’t seem to appear on Roku’s own hardware, like the Roku Ultra, Express, Streambar, or Streaming Stick. Rather, they show up on certain smart TVs running the Roku TV platform—and it might just be certain brands, like Sharp. Some owners of TCL Roku TVs commented that they had not seen the ads.

Fortunately, users in the thread reported that the feature can be disabled in privacy settings. But it’s possible that doing so may disable other Roku features.

Roku’s platform is not the only one adding ads to content. Users have complained previously about ads featured prominently on Samsung’s TVs, and while we haven’t seen reports of ads appearing over live content on LG’s webOS TVs, they do appear in other places in the TV’s software.

Further, some of these platforms collect and monetize user data, as we previously reported about Vizio TVs.

Smart TV platforms offer convenience, but it’s rare for software and services that receive ongoing free support and updates to operate without showing ads, monetizing user data, or both. The profit margins on TVs can be small outside of the high-end part of the market, and supporting software and live services over time costs money, so TV and platform makers are seeking out ways to generate recurring revenue on top of what they get from initial sales.

User complaints like these may reflect a trend to which there is no clear end.

We’ve reached out to Roku for comment and clarification about which devices serve these ads and what the effects of disabling them in settings might be.



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