A startup called Telly is planning to give away a whopping half million 55-inch TVs to consumers — but with one huge catch.
As if annoying commercial breaks on cable weren't enough, the sleek TV set will come with a second screen that will show you a nonstop stream of ads while you're catching up on your favorite shows. This second "Smart Display" will also show other widgets, like the weather or stocks.
To hammer the model home, Telly's chief strategy officer Dallas Lawrence told The Verge that both screens might even show ads at the same time when not in use.
In other words, it's a dystopian ad-supported streaming TV nightmare: a transaction-based ecosystem that turns you and your viewing habits into the product.
Telly is calling its invention the "ultimate free TV upgrade" on its website. The company was created by Ilya Pozin, who also co-founded the add-supported app Pluto TV, an entirely ad-supported streaming service.
Beyond its two displays, the Telly also has a camera — including a privacy shutter, to be fair — to enable things like "free advanced motion-tracking fitness programs" or conference calls, as well as a microphone and motion sensor.
In other words, it has plenty of ways to track you in your living room.
And that all raises the question: how will Telly make sure that you're actually viewing its ads instead of just pushing a piece of furniture in front of the Smart Display?
According to its typo-riddled activity data policy — get ready for "mayenhance video content" and "contentrecommendations" — the company reserves the right to track a wide swathe of metrics including "search queries, settings preferences, applications you open, purchases or other transactions you make, buttons you select, the time, frequency, and duration of your activities, the physical presence of you and any other individuals using the TV at any given time, and other usage data."
The company may also "share your Viewing and Activity Data with third-party data partners and advertisers who use it to show you relevant ads and provide you with customized content."
To even get on the company's waitlist for a free ad-viewing experience, you'll have to live in the US and fill out a lengthy questionnaire on the company's app, including what your favorite TV shows are and who your cell phone provider is, according to Ars Technica.
In case all of these terms feel just a little too invasive, you can opt out of tracking for a hefty price. According to The Verge, the company previously said its TV set would cost $500.
Otherwise, of course, you could also just buy a regular TV, which are often way cheaper than that.
All in all, Telly's "free" TV feels like a pretty invasive piece of tech. Sure, not having to splurge on a fancy TV might be a great way to save some cash upfront, but the experience clearly comes with a pretty substantial cost.
In other words, Telly is making a pretty huge bet. To be successful in the long term, the company is incentivized to squeeze as much data out of its customers, and ad dollars out of their eyeballs, as possible — and that doesn't exactly sound like it will make for a pleasant viewing experience.
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