Would you give up your data in exchange for a free TV?
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There’s a new type of TV coming for Samsung, LG, and Vizio, and it’s completely free — if you don’t count the price of your attention. Telly, a company created by Pluto TV co-founder Ilya Pozin, offers up a TV that makes up for its nonexistent price tag by showing constant advertisements in a second, smaller display.
The company calls this thin strip of a screen a “Smart Display,” which is separated from the main TV by a soundbar. In addition to showing ads, it’s also capable of displaying a variety of widgets, including sports scores, a news ticker, the weather, and stock prices. Ads could pop up on the far right side of the Smart Display, as shown in the pictures embedded in this article, but might also appear in the form of a sponsored news feed on the left side of the screen. Janko Roettgers first reported on rumors of the device earlier this month.
“When I co-founded Pluto TV, we created an entirely new model that offered amazing TV content to viewers for free,” Pozin says in a statement. “Now, with Telly, we are providing the actual television for free as well.”
While ads shouldn’t interrupt whatever you’re watching on the main display, Telly’s chief strategy officer, Dallas Lawrence, tells The Verge that ads might utilize both displays when you’re not using the TV. “When the Theatre display (top screen) is not in use, the ad unit could come to life in a fun way connecting both,” Lawrence says. “There are literally hundreds of things we are thinking about to create the most engaging ad experience ever.” Lawrence also says that Telly is also working on “Telly Rewards” that will reward users with a gift card to services like Netflix or Starbucks for participating in things like on-screen polls.
As for the main display, it’s a 55-inch 4K HDR panel linked to the secondary display through the company’s operating system: TellyOS. Unlike most mainline smart TV operating systems, TellyOS currently doesn’t support third-party streaming apps like Netflix. That’s why Telly comes bundled with a free 4K Android TV dongle that you can use to watch whatever streaming service you want. It’s also compatible with other streaming devices, including Roku, the Amazon Fire Stick, and Apple TV, and has three HDMI inputs, 2 USB inputs, and a tuner that you can use to watch over-the-air broadcasts.
There’s more to the TV than just the two displays, though. If you look closely, you might notice a camera that’s planted smack-dab in the middle of the soundbar. That enables “free advanced motion-tracking fitness programs” that come with the TV, along with the Zoom integration that Telly’s launching with as well. Lawrence tells The Verge that the TV comes with a privacy shutter (and that the TV ships with it shut), so you can open and close it as you please.
But that’s still not the end of Telly’s integrations — it’s also shipping with 40 different games and the ability to play music from “popular music services.” It even has an “AI-driven voice assistant” that answers to “Hey Telly.” If all that sounds a bit vague, that’s because it is. The company has yet to reveal the music services it’s partnering with and didn’t expand on the games or commands that the device will feature.
This all points to Pozin’s massive goals for Telly, though. Pozin has made a bet on free TV in the past with the launch of Pluto TV, one of the most successful free ad-supported streaming TV services (FAST). He’ll likely apply this knowledge to free hardware.
“Don’t be fooled by the free price,” Pozin says in a statement. “This is by far the most advanced television ever developed.” Would I take a free, ad-supported TV over the LG I have now? Absolutely not, but I’m genuinely intrigued with how this setup works. You can visit the freetelly.com website to reserve one of the 500,000 free devices that Telly says will start shipping “this summer.”