Updating: A Roku spokesperson told us that this ad serving was a bug and that the bug has been fixed, but has not provided any additional clarification or insight at this time.
Some Roku smart TV owners are seeing banner ads pop up about 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 will buy or recommend a Roku. After a Sleep Number commercial, I just got a Roku ad sidebar while watching live TV. Really liked the Roku experience so far but this is a deal breaker.
The message was accompanied by the following photo:
The photo shows a Sharp TV with Roku software and an ad for a bed over a live sports broadcast, plus a prompt to “press OK to get an offer.”
These ads do not appear to appear on Roku’s own hardware, such as the Roku Ultra, Express, Streambar, or Streaming Stick. Instead, they appear on certain smart TVs with the Roku TV platform – and they can only be certain brands, such as Sharp. Some owners of TCL Roku TVs noted that they had not seen the ads.
Fortunately, users reported in the thread that the feature can be turned off in the privacy settings. But it is possible that this will disable other Roku features.
Roku’s platform isn’t the only thing adding ads to content. Users have previously complained about ads appearing prominently on Samsung TVs, and while we haven’t seen any reports of ads appearing on LG’s webOS TVs via live content, they do appear in other places in the TV’s software.
Furthermore, some of these platforms collect and generate user data, as we previously reported on Vizio TVs.
Smart TV platforms provide convenience, but it’s rare for software and services that receive ongoing free support and updates to work without showing ads, monetizing user data, or both. Profit margins on TVs can be slim outside the high-end end of the market, and supporting software and live services costs money over time, so TV and platform makers are looking for ways to generate recurring revenue on top of what they get from first sales.
Such user complaints may reflect a trend that has no clear end.
We’ve reached out to Roku for comment and clarification on which devices are showing these ads and the effects of disabling them in settings.