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Editor's take: I hate to say it, but advertising is a necessary evil. If you desire media content at a reasonable price (or free), you've no choice but to tolerate ad interruptions. It's virtually the only way a content provider can stay in business and keep subscription rates low. However, ad placement should never interfere with the presentation of the media in an intrusive way.
Update (01/21/21): A rook spokesperson reached out to us and said that the ad that the user saw was a bag. Roku has resolved the issue and affirmed that it is not running ads during live television broadcasts.
The original story follows below:
It appears that streaming TV provider Roku may be testing pop-up ads with live broadcast customers. Over the weekend, a user on the r/cordcutters subreddit reported that Roku served him an ad overlay during a live NFL game. He was not happy.
"Welp, this is the last time I purchase or recommend a Roku," the user said.
The content was a pop-up offer for a Sleep Number bed. It came on the screen shortly after a commercial break where a Sleep Number ad had appeared. ExtremeTech notes that Roku has not commented on the situation, leading users to speculate what is going on with the extra advertising.
It's possible that Roku either has agreements with live TV providers or advertisers to post interactive ads after their live TV slots. Offering a way to immediately purchase a previously advertised product while still fresh in mind is a logical way to increase conversion rates. However, it's a tactic that stirs up a lot of resentment with customers paying for a service already supported by advertising.
One Redditor advised that users can turn off the pop-ups in the Roku settings.
"These [ads] are from companies that have an agreement with Roku to allow these on Roku TVs. As far as I know, they are not on standalone devices," Redditor reinking said, adding, "If I remember how I disabled this correctly, go to Settings > Privacy > Smart TV Experience. Disable the 'Use info from TV inputs.'"
We were unable to verify this claim.
Of course, viewing ads during live TV is expected. Networks have run advertising during all types of broadcasts, from soaps to sports, literally from the beginning. Likewise, ads from streaming services are not entirely unexpected, especially for those that make no money from subscriptions. And even subscribers to streaming TV providers can tolerate some ads to a certain extent.
The real problem here is in the implementation. Having advertisements within menus or the content guide is reasonably unobtrusive. Not many would complain about such ad placement. However, when ads begin to interrupt the viewing experience, users tend to get mad. Roku could quickly rectify this situation by placing the pop-up overlay during the commercial break and not during the television show.