Google is trying out a new “Pilot Program” that puts a row of advertisements on the Android TV home screen. XDA Developers was the first to report on the new phenomenon, saying, “We’re currently seeing reports that it has shown up in Sony smart TVs, the Mi Box 3 from Xiaomi, NVIDIA Shield TV, and others.
The advertising is a “Sponsored Channel” part of the “Android TV Core Services” app that ships with all Android TV devices. A “Channel” in Android TV parlance means an entire row of thumbnails in the UI will be dedicated to “sponsored” content. Google provided XDA Developers with a statement saying that yes, this is on purpose, but for now it’s a “pilot program.”
Android TV is committed to optimizing and personalizing the entertainment experience at home. As we explore new opportunities to engage the user community, we’re running a pilot program to surface sponsored content on the Android TV home screen.
Sony has tersely worded a support page detailing the “Sponsored channel,” too. There’s no mention here of it being a pilot program. Sony’s page, titled “A sponsored channel has suddenly appeared on my TV Home menu,” says, “This change is included in the latest Android TV Launcher app (Home app) update. The purpose is to help you discover new apps and contents for your TV.”
Sony goes on to say, “This channel is managed by Google” and “the Sponsored channel cannot be customized.” Sony basically could replace the entire page with a “Deal with it” sunglasses gif, and it would send the same message.
Buying a product knowing it has ads in it is one thing, but users on Reddit and elsewhere are understandably angry about ads suddenly being patched into their devices—especially in cases when these devices are multi-thousand-dollar 4K Sony televisions. There is an option to disable the ads if you dig into the settings but users are reporting the ads aren’t staying disabled. For now, uninstalling updates for the “Android TV Core Services” app is the best way to remove the ads.
Remember, for now this is a “pilot program.” So please share your valuable feedback with Google in the comments.