This article was published on April 4, 2022

Vizio showing ads over live TV is a glimpse of our hellish future

Things are only gonna get worse


Vizio showing ads over live TV is a glimpse of our hellish future
Callum Booth
Story by

Callum Booth

Editor of Plugged by TNW

Callum is an Englishman in Amsterdam, but not in the way you're thinking. He's the Editor of Plugged, TNW's consumer tech vertical. He w Callum is an Englishman in Amsterdam, but not in the way you're thinking. He's the Editor of Plugged, TNW's consumer tech vertical. He writes about gear, gadgets, and apps — with a particular focus on Apple — and also makes the occasional odd video. Basically, he's halfway between an abrasive gadget nerd and thinky art boy.

Technology companies are eager to prove that the products we buy aren’t actually ours — and TV makers have embraced this more than most.

I mean, what other way is there to explain why Vizio has enabled a feature on its TVs that display banner adverts over live shows?

Named ‘Jump Ads,’ the idea is a visual overlay appears during a television spot, which then pushes users towards the series on an app available on Vizio’s devices.

For example, imagine catching the premiere of a new comedy on a TV channel. At the end of this episode a banner appears, encouraging you to visit a streaming service to watch the next entry in the series.

In fact, this is precisely what Fox — the first partner engaging with Vizio’s Jump Ads — is doing. The media giant placed a banner at the end of its new show Welcome to Flatch. This impels viewers to watch additional episodes on the company’s app, which is available on Vizio’s televisions.

Truly, we exist in a cursed timeline.

vizio jump ads tv example
This is what it’ll look like, and all I have to say about that is: Oh god no. No, god, no. God no, please god, no.

This shouldn’t be a surprise. Really, it’s just taking us closer to the inevitable eventuality of smart TVs becoming another portal to try and sell us shit.

For the past few years, TV manufacturers have been slowly inserting more and more ads into their devices. This began as something small (but still vile), like pushing a product that’s related to the company. For example, when I connected my Philips TV to the internet, it showed me adverts for the company’s Ambilight models.

Recently though, this accelerated, leaving us with endless reports of adverts being shown on smart TVs. On top of that, LG TVs were showing actual commercials in the device’s app store.

The reason for this is simple: money and data.

Long story short, TV manufacturers now subsidize the cost of their devices by providing data to third parties. This is part of the pricing structure of televisions. If a company doesn’t do this, its hardware will be substantially more expensive than its competitors — something particularly important for makers of low-end visual equipment. It’s why it’s almost impossible to buy a non-smart television these days.

sponsored advert samsung TV
This is an example of the sort of adverts that are now common in pretty much all smart TVs. This specific example is from Samsung. Credit: u/BrownLandlord

With this in mind, Vizio showing banners over live TV is a logical step — even if it sucks.

The company has been working on advertising TV tech for some time, and its Jump Ad system is a natural extension of this. Plus, a feature in this mold provides the company with another revenue stream, as it can make deals with media companies to push specific shows and keep the cash rolling in post-television purchase.

This is horrendous by itself, but what makes Vizio’s launch of its banner adverts even worse is how the company positions it.

In a press release, Vizio logicizes the move by citing data from Accenture, saying that “60% of viewers are frustrated with the process of navigating between different streaming services and apps.”

And how does Vizio plan to solve this horror? To put up a fight against the splintering of content across multiple services? To make people’s lives easier and simpler?

Adverts, of fucking course.

Adam Bergman — Vizio’s VP of National Ad Sales — said the company was on a mission to “bridge the gap between linear [TV] and streaming.” But all I see is a company hungrily pushing the boundaries of what users find acceptable on devices they own in order to make some fast cash.

It’s disgusting enough pushing adverts on people’s personal devices against their will, but it’s even worse when you pretend you’re doing them a favor.

What’s even more depressing is this approach isn’t going to stop. In fact, we’ll probably look back and think a banner appearing at the end of a show encouraging you to watch the rest of the series as quaint.

It won’t be long until more manufacturers adopt Vizio’s approach — and soon after that we’ll start seeing unrelated adverts appearing on live television or over streaming apps.

This is all part of a technological shift where we don’t fully own or control our products. Software updates mean companies can keep fiddling with how we use devices, serving us ever-growing slices of a dystopian hell geared towards squeezing every penny out of us.

And the worst part? There’s almost nothing we can do about it.

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