Feel like selling your soul for a (rather good) freebie? For skinflints living in the United States, their lucky day is here, as a startup is offering up 500,000 free 55in 4K televisions to anybody who’s happy to be subject to adverts as they watch.

Well, at least it’s more appealing than putting adverts in train windows.

Telly’s promise is simple. They’ll ship you a TV set free of charge in exchange for your data and your acceptance of being subject to adverts on the attached second screen.

Yes, two screens — divided by a built-in soundbar. If it wasn’t for the threat of constant ad bombardment, the idea actually sounds pretty cool. As well as badgering you with reminders of the Faustian pact you made when you accepted the gift, the second screen will show news, sports scores, weather and other useful data.

The TV also contains a camera — albeit with a privacy shutter that’s closed by default — and a microphone, for voice controls and tracked workouts.

Unsurprisingly, the terms and conditions are full of clauses that would make most people raise an inquisitive eyebrow. When you order the TV, you pledge to “use the product as the primary television in your household”, keep it connected to WiFi, not use any ad-blocking software and not resell it.

It also “may collect information about the audio and video content you watch, the channels you view, and the duration of your viewing sessions.”

And while you “have the right to opt-out of sharing your Viewing and Activity Data”, that “unfortunately” means you’ll have to return the TV. If you don’t send it back, “Telly will charge the credit card on file.” It doesn’t say how much, but an article on The Verge says this once mentioned a fee of US$500 — or around NZ$800.

That report contains an even more chilling revelation, shared in incongruously cheery language by Telly’s chief strategy officer, Dallas Lawrence. “When the Theatre display (top screen) is not in use, the ad unit could come to life in a fun way connecting both,” he said, offering a strange new definition of the word “fun”. 

“There are literally hundreds of things we are thinking about to create the most engaging ad experience ever.” Ugh.

But hey… you get what you pay for. It’s a well-known adage that if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product. This is just one case where the company is being a bit more on the nose with that wisdom than usual. 

It’ll be interesting to see whether 500,000 people snap it up — and whether 500,000 more will want to follow if the offer is extended.

Alan Martin
Alan is an experienced and versatile writer with the unique distinction of having written for both The New Statesman and Nuts. The list of publications Alan has written for doesn't stop there. His work has also been published in: Wired, CNET, Gizmodo UK, ShortList, NME, TechRadar, The i, The Independent, The Evening Standard, City Metric, Macworld, Pocket Gamer, Expert Reviews, Coach, The Inquirer, Rock Paper Shotgun, Tom's Guide, T3, PC Pro, IT Pro, Ideal Home, Livingetc, Stuff, Business Insider, theBit, Wareable, and Trusted Reviews. Alan now covers a range of subjects for ReviewsFire, with a focus on news - his unique style of covering technology news is a key part of ReviewsFire's success.


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