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Roku learns sneaky way to show TV ads – and we hate the idea

If you’re an owner of a Roku branded TV set, you mightn’t be safe from invasive ads, even if you use third-party set-top box like an Apple TV or a Fire TV Stick or hook-up a games console.

The company has patented a way to serve advertisements to viewers when they press pause on content running from third-party devices hooked-up to a Roku telly.

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So, if you got up for a mid-movie piddle and hit pause on Dune or your latest Forza marathon, the chances are, Roku would have invaded your set-top box via the HDMI input and shoved one of its own ads in your face. Roku already does this via its own interface, but the third-party roll out wouldn’t be well received.

Now those buying Roku tellies generally use the RokuOS to stream content, because the tellies themselves are generally budget-friendly sets designed with the built-in smart OS in mind. However, gamers would likely be hit hardest by the move.

The technology has been patented (via Lowpass) by Roku – which probably means it isn’t imminently about to be integrated – and describes a system for “for ad insertion by a display device coupled to a media device via a high-definition media interface (HDMI) connection.”

It would be achieved by noticing the pause button had been hit and reporting that back to the television and, in all likelihood, dropping the ad in as a sort of screensaver. The TV could also analyse whether the frames being displayed on the TV haven’t changed and realise the set has been paused that way. The company is also talking about detecting the on-screen content in order show you ads that may be related to what you’re watching, according to the patent.

Whether this would be tolerated by the other set-top box or console makers, who could quite easily do the same to viewers/gamers if they chose, remains to be seen. After all, this effectively hijacks the experience.

Ads are a big money maker for Roku right now, but this is a wholly unpalatable proposition for anyone who spends their hard earned on a Roku TV.

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