Bait-and-Switch the Channel

Roku updates its streaming box to an ad vessel
Roku Will Be Adding New Video Ads to Its Home Screen | Cord Cutters News
Are you ready to see video ads on your Roku home screen? Recently video ads have become more popular on home screens. Amazon has put full screen video ads on their home screen. Now Roku will be following suit. During Roku’s first quarter 2024 earnings call, Roku’s CEO was asked about ad revenue and the […]

This is hardly surprising, but no less shitty. Luke Bouma relays the comments from Roku CEO Anthony Wood on the company's latest earnings call:

But to give you some examples of the kinds of things we’re looking at on the home screen, on the home screen today, there’s the premier video app we called the Marquee and that traditionally has been a static ad. We’re going to add video to that ad. So that will be the first video ad in that we add to the home screen. That will be a big change for us.” Wood went on to say, “We’re also testing other types of video ad units, looking at other experiences we can add to the home screen that would be where we can innovate more video advertising. So that’s something we’re looking at.

It's one thing to buy a device (or service, for that matter) with the knowledge that ads are effectively subsidizing it. It's another to be baited and switched into it. Sure, Roku had static ads before, but video ads are something new and intrusively different. Of course, Roku are hardly the only ones, as Wes Davis notes:

Whatever Roku has planned, the video ads living in a box isn’t quite as irritating as the full-screen video ads Amazon started showing on Fire TV devices last year or the YouTube pause ads that are rumored to be on their way. That’s in addition to a growing streaming industry emphasis on ad-supported tiers and higher prices on ad-free subscriptions.

It overall feels like the anti-advertising movement (for content) that started with the rise of Netflix's streaming service all those years ago has now swung completely the other way. Roku has ads. Amazon added ads to Prime. Disney is doing ads. Microsoft in your Start menu. Even Netflix itself now has ads.

All of this was always inevitable in the quest for revenue and business model diversification, as is the next backlash against the ads when they get shoved in our faces in new and exciting ways:

Still, Roku did file the patent equivalent of telling other streaming hardware makers to hold its beer — a plan to use automatic content recognition to tell when you’ve paused the screen on, say, your Apple TV or PS5 and take that opportunity to foist ads on you through HDMI. That’s just a patent filing, of course, and doesn’t mean it’s actually happening. But if it ever does, just remember: anything, even a Roku TV device, can be a Frisbee if you try hard enough.

People like to shit on the Apple TV because it's so much more expensive than these other devices by Roku and Amazon. But, it turns out you get what you pay for in the end!