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Samsung is adding new obtrusive ads to your old smart TV

If you’re Samsung and you want to wring additional cash out of your television business, what do you do? Add annoying advertisements to TVs that people already have in their homes, apparently. The Wall Street Journal reports that Samsung is readying the European expansion of an initiative it started in the United States last June: adding interactive advertisements to the menu bars of its high-end smart TVs. The impact isn’t going to be limited just to customers buying new Samsung televisions, either, as the company reportedly plans to use software updates to retroactively bring the ads to older models that people already have in their homes.

Samsung doesn’t have the most stellar reputation when it comes to customer expectations and its TV products. Last year a poorly-worded privacy policy gave the impression that Samsung was using its televisions to listen in on your living room conversations (it wasn’t, but word spread so quickly that the company had to issue a formal clarification). And around the same time, numerous complaints surfaced that Samsung televisions were inserting mysterious Pepsi ads into the middle of movies that customers owned. The solution in that case was to dive deep into the television’s settings and reject both a Yahoo privacy policy and disable a feature called “SyncPlus” that enabled the ads in the first place — something that it seems Samsung customers in Europe will now have to deal with as well.

Tricking customers into opting into ad-serving programs, or adding intrusive features after televisions have already been purchased, is the kind of customer-hostile behavior that consumers had to put with from PC OEMs for decades. But according to the Journal report, it is part of an orchestrated strategy on the part of Samsung, as the company has found the television business to be increasingly less profitable since the original high-definition boom. It’s also worth noting that Samsung isn’t alone here, either. LG was experimenting with pop-up ads in 2013, and Panasonic has been using software updates to add start-up banner ads for years — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. If anything, the lesson is that with greater technological capability comes greater responsibility, and television companies flailing for profit just can’t seem to help themselves. So if you get a new Samsung TV, be prepared to do some digging before you can watch your favorite films and shows without interruption. You can turn off motion smoothing while you’re at it.


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