In a bold move that blurs the line between convenience and intrusion, startup company Telly has announced plans to distribute an astounding half million 55-inch TVs to consumers. However, the catch is that these sleek television sets come with an additional screen that bombards viewers with a continuous stream of advertisements while they indulge in their favorite shows. This second “Smart Display” also features other widgets such as weather updates and stock market information. Even more disconcerting, Telly’s chief strategy officer, Dallas Lawrence, revealed to The Verge that both screens might display ads simultaneously when not in use. This innovative but dystopian ad-supported streaming TV model positions viewers and their viewing habits as commodities within a transactional ecosystem.
Dubbed the “ultimate free TV upgrade” on Telly’s website, this invention is the brainchild of Ilya Pozin, who also co-founded Pluto TV—an entirely ad-supported streaming service. In addition to the dual displays, the Telly TV boasts a camera, complete with a privacy shutter, enabling features like “free advanced motion-tracking fitness programs” and conference calls. It also includes a microphone and motion sensor, raising concerns about the extent of tracking that could occur within viewers’ living rooms.
One pertinent question emerges: How will Telly ensure that viewers actively engage with the advertisements rather than merely positioning furniture in front of the Smart Display? A perusal of the company’s activity data policy, marred by typos like “may enhance video content” and “content recommendations,” reveals their intention to track an extensive range of metrics. These include search queries, settings preferences, applications accessed, purchases or transactions made, selected buttons, activity frequency and duration, physical presence, and other usage data of individuals using the TV. Furthermore, Telly explicitly states its intention to share viewers’ Viewing and Activity Data with third-party data partners and advertisers for the purpose of displaying relevant ads and delivering customized content.
To join the waitlist for this ad-viewing experience, prospective users must reside in the United States and complete a lengthy questionnaire within the company’s app. This questionnaire delves into personal preferences, including favorite TV shows and cell phone service providers, as reported by Ars Technica. For those who find these terms excessively invasive, Telly offers an opt-out option at a considerable cost. The Verge reported that the company initially priced its TV set at $500. Alternatively, individuals can choose to purchase a regular TV, which often comes at a significantly lower price point.