Published November 05, 2015
I bet you thought you could avoid watching ads by supplying your own media. Sorry. Samsung smart TV owners have reported that ads have been showing up while using Plex, a third-party app that lets them stream content from their PCs. Even more troubling: this behavior seems to be tied into the Samsung TVs themselves rather than the Plex service.
Reports of invasive ad activity have been cropping up about Samsung TVs for a few weeks, but threads on the Plex forums and Reddit recently drew attention to a new and more obnoxious advertisement. While watching their own content via Plex, Australian users (but no one from other parts of the world) had to sit through occasional 30-second ads for Pepsi products with perfect picture, but no audio.
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Putting their collective heads together, Plex users discovered two things: the ads appeared to be tied to Samsung's optional Yahoo ads program, and that they were probably being show in error (hence the lack of audio). I contacted Samsung and confirmed at least one of these theories.
We are aware of a situation that has caused some Smart TV users in Australia to experience program interruption in the form of an advertisement," a Samsung representative told Tom's Guide. "This seems to be caused by an error, and we are currently conducting a full and thorough investigation into the cause … We would like to apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused."
As for whether the ads are specifically tied to Samsung's affiliate program with Yahoo, it seems likely. Users have determined that by going into the settings menu and opting out of Yahoo ads, they can prevent the Pepsi ads from interrupting their private media collections.
Samsung says that this incident was an error, and that's almost certainly true. However, one thing is clear: Samsung is, at the very least, experimenting with running ads in third-party apps. Don't be shocked if this type of advertisement makes a full return in the future, or if other manufacturers begin to try similar programs.
The fact of the matter is that Samsung makes very little money from apps. They're free to download, and your subscription fees go directly to Netflix, or Plex, or whichever company developed the program. Running ads over third-party apps could recoup some of the cost, and consumers have very little control over how manufacturers choose to display ads on their devices.
Take, for example, the Xbox 360. After a dashboard update in 2011, the console started running video ads at the bottom right corner of every home screen, even if you were a paid Xbox Live subscriber. Fans recoiled against these bandwidth-wasting eyesores, but four years later, they're still going strong and don't appear to be going away anytime soon.