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Roku explores showing ads over your TV's HDMI inputs

08 Apr 2024 | Rasmus Larsen |

Roku has filed a patent outlining a method of injecting ads into the video feed of external devices connected to a Roku TV via HDMI whenever the external device is paused or idle.

The recent patent filing was discovered by Janko Roettgers and first reported in his Lowpass last week. It details a way for a TV, such as a Roku TV, to detect and react to what is being sent to the TV's HDMI input.

- "This way, when an owner of a Roku TV takes a short break from playing a game on their Xbox, or streaming something on an Apple TV device connected to the TV set, Roku would use that break to show ads. Roku engineers have even explored ways to figure out what the consumer is doing with their TV-connected device in order to display relevant advertising," reports Lowpass.

The patent describes how Roku can determine what is playing over HDMI by analyzing audio or picture frames. It also references Automatic Content Recognition (ACR), a system already found in many Smart TVs to analyze what is shown on-screen.


Pause ads

While Roku TVs do not yet inject ads over HDMI feeds, it shows the direction Roku is heading in, and it is something that could possibly be enabled via a future firmware update. Roku is no stranger to these types of 'pause ads' shown when you are not actively watching content, for example, the Roku city screensaver, as pointed out by Janko Roettgers. More homescreen ads are also coming soon to Roku TVs, the company announced earlier this year. Also read: Roku disables TVs & streamers unless users agree to new terms

Roku ads

Roku recently announced plans to put more ads on the homescreen, including ads for cars, travel and food. Photo: Roku

An industry trend

This development is part of an industry-wide trend where Amazon and Google have also recently started displaying full-screen video ads (1, 2) on the homescreen when the TV is not in use. It has seemed inevitable given the business models of Roku, FireTV, and Chromecast Google TV—devices sold at extremely low prices, often near or below cost, to build a user base. However, it is problematic that these features are being added via firmware updates. The more expensive Apple TV 4K provides a refuge from TV ads on the home screen. - Source: Lowpass

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