This afternoon, I was updating the streaming apps on my 2020 LG CX OLED TV, something I do from time to time, but today was different. Out of nowhere, I saw (and heard) an ad for Ace Hardware start playing in the lower-left corner. It autoplayed with sound without any action on my part.
Now I’m fully aware that it’s not unusual to see ads placed around a TV’s home screen or main menu. LG, Samsung, Roku, Vizio, and others are all in on this game. We live in an era when smart TVs can automatically recognize what you’re watching, and TV makers are building nice ad businesses for themselves with all of the data that gets funneled in.
But this felt pretty egregious even by today’s standards. A random, full-on commercial just popping up in LG’s app store? Is there no escape from this stuff? We’re just going to cram ads into every corner of a TV’s software, huh? Imagine if an autoplay ad started up while you were updating the apps on your smartphone.
The Ace spot wasn’t particularly annoying — it was over in 15 seconds — nor did it feel targeted at me or creepy. It’s really the placement that feels like a step too far.
This stuff can come off as invasive, but it’s also partially what’s steadily brought the prices down on even high-end TVs. I got this 55-inch CX on sale for like $1,400, and it’s pretty much the best TV on the market for next-gen gaming. But even if this beautiful panel came cheaper than it might have without ads plastered in random places, the level of ad infiltration on display here is still disheartening to see. LG recently announced it will be licensing webOS to other TV brands, so maybe the company is trying to see how far it can push things.
I guess I can always cut the TV’s internet connection and stick to a streaming stick or my Xbox Series X if the autoplay commercials keep popping up everywhere. Or maybe I can opt out of a setting somewhere to end the barrage. Some people aren’t bothered by this stuff, but if you are, check out this excellent Reddit thread, which can help you fight back and block some of the domains that these TVs phone home to for their ads. A lot of people on Twitter also pointed me to Pi-hole as a fix.
Let’s block ads! (Why?)