Would you tolerate endless ads in exchange for a free 55-inch 4K TV? That’s the proposal being made by Telly, the new tech startup created by the co-founder of Pluto TV, Ilya Pozin.
Telly has confirmed that it will be giving away 500,000 Smart TVs, and reservations are now open to customers in the U.S. The specific model of the TV isn’t listed but it will have HDR features and three HDMI ports for connecting additional devices such as a gaming console. It will also pack an in-built five-driver soundbar. Alongside the high-definition display, you’ll also get a 4K streaming stick thrown in for good measure.
The TV also comes packing a built-in camera and microphone. The latter can be used to operate the TV via its AI assistant (That apparently answers to “Hey Telly”!), while the former allows users to play a variety of games including “arcade classics” and “immersive multiplayer experiences” where your body becomes the controller. The camera is also used for fitness programs that Telly claims utilize “advanced motion-tracking.”
So what's the catch?
As noted there's a fairly substantial catch to this offer in the form of a secondary display that will continually show advertisements as well as rolling news updates, sports scores and weather forecasts.
This second screen is separate from the larger 55-inch TV, but presumably, neither can be independently operated and instead work in tandem. Telly also states that you must keep the TV connected to the internet at all times while in use.
The catch also extends beyond just tolerating a constant stream of ads, data collection is also a big part of Telly’s pitch. The small print notes that the company “may collect information about the audio and video content you watch, the channels you view, and the duration of your viewing sessions” as well as storing details on “how you interact with the TV” including which buttons you press and what you regularly search for via the voice AI.
Of course, you are given the option to opt out of data collection, but this will result in you having to return all the free equipment. If you refuse to return the dual screen and soundbar setup, Telly will charge you $500, which gives us a rough indication of the combined retail cost of this free TV. Although Pozin told Deadline, if sold direct to customers, the TV would retail for more than $1,000.
“When I co-founded Pluto TV, we created an entirely new model that offered amazing TV content to viewers for free. Now, with Telly, we are providing the actual television for free as well,” Pozin said in a statement. “Don’t be fooled by the free price. This is by far the most advanced television ever developed.”
The best cheap TV deals regularly see 55-inch 4K TV drop below $500, which raises the question of exactly how good this “free” TV deal actually is. Zero upfront cost is certainly a boon, but there are several nasty strings attached to this offer, and the data-sharing requirements sound like a privacy nightmare. At least the in-built camera does include a privacy shutter, which is reportedly enabled out of the box.
Perhaps Telly will prove to be a trailblazer and in a few year's time, all TVs will be given away for free in exchange for your personal viewing data and the understanding that you will allow persistent ads into your home. However, we can’t help but feel that purchasing one of the best TVs during seasonal events such as the upcoming Memorial Day sales isn’t perhaps the better deal overall.