Never mind free streaming services — one startup is giving the hardware away, too. Telly is now taking US reservations for free 55-inch 4K TVs that continuously display ads on part of a secondary screen. So long as you’re willing to accept those ads (or tune them out) and share data, you won’t have to pay a thing.
As Telly explains, the smaller display also shows news, sports scores and other useful data. You won’t have to interrupt a show just to stay in the know. The set has its own camera, microphone array, sensors and voice assistant, enabling video calls and motion-captured fitness apps. There’s a built-in five-driver sound bar as well. You’re not stuck using the company’s platform, as you’ll still find three HDMI ports to plug in other media devices.
The reservations cover the first 500,000 TVs, which are expected to ship in the summer. Telly hasn’t outlined full specs as we write this, but the set is estimated to be worth $1,000 at retail.
The strategy isn’t surprising given Telly’s leadership. Company chief Ilya Pozin co-founded Pluto TV, Paramount’s free-to-watch service. He sees the free TV as making viewers an “equal part” of the ad system — you’re benefiting as much as the corporations, Pozin claims.
Whether or not customers follow suit isn’t clear. The ad-supported model might not thrill privacy-minded viewers who’d rather not share info. There’s also just one size and configuration, so you’ll have to look elsewhere if you want a larger or higher-quality screen. This is for viewers who’d rather not pay for a cut-rate TV (which may still have home screen ads) just to outfit their living room.
Telly’s launch is part of a broader rush to offer free TV experiences. Amazon, Roku, Tubi and others all have ad-supported streaming channels, while Google TV is integrating many of those providers into its platform. The difference, of course, is the business model. Companies like Amazon and Roku see ad-supported TV as a way to spur hardware sales, while Telly is depending solely on those ads to turn a profit.