Terrible news — Roku patents way to show you ads whenever you pause a show or game

All-new Roku TV unveiled at CES 2023
(Image credit: Roku)

Ads on Roku TVs could become a lot more prevalent and, if a new patent filed by the company comes to fruition, they could even begin to show up when you have an Apple TV, Xbox Series X or PS5 plugged into the TV's HDMI ports.

The patent, discovered by Janko Roettgers of Lowpass, uses frame analysis and HDMI detection to determine when there's a pause in content on an external HDMI device. Once a pause is detected, Roku can then use that opportunity to show ads.

The way the technology is described, it would only work on TVs that use the Roku smart platform like the Roku Plus Series 4K QLED TV, not external streaming sticks like the Roku Streaming Stick 4K or the Roku Streaming Stick 4K Plus.

Right now, Roku devices might display ads as part of its screen saver and on the Home Screen, but this patent would allow Roku TVs to show ads even when the input is changed — something that no other TV manufacturer has proposed in the past. 

One possible silver lining? Cheaper TVs! 

One of the major reasons that TVs have come down so much in price in the last decade is that manufacturers defray the cost of the hardware with plans to monetize advertising on the TV's home screen. That's why we've seen streaming sticks for less than $20 and 55-inch TVs for under $500. 

The most famous example of a discounted TV in return for incessant advertising is Telly, a company that was giving away 55-inch TVs back in 2023. Not only did this TV display ads on an attached second screen, but its terms of service also said 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”.

While Roku isn't going fully down that path, if Roku decides to implement this technology it will have a new way to show you advertisements in an area that there were none before. Hopefully that will bring down the upfront cost of the TV, but it's hard to say based on this patent alone.

Want a TV that doesn't show you so many ads? You can disable ad banners entirely on LG's WebOS 24 that's available on the new LG C4 OLED and LG G4 OLED models.

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Nick Pino
Managing Editor, TV and AV

Nick Pino heads up the TV and AV verticals at Tom's Guide and covers everything from OLED TVs to the latest wireless headphones. He was formerly the Senior Editor, TV and AV at TechRadar (Tom's Guide's sister site) and has previously written for GamesRadar, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade. Not sure which TV you should buy? Drop him an email or tweet him on Twitter and he can help you out.