Samsung TVs Injecting Ads in Owners' Videos

I bet you thought you could avoid watching ads by supplying your own media. Sorry. Samsung smart TV owners have reported that ads have been showing up while users were viewing Plex, a third-party app that lets them stream content from their PCs. Even more troubling: This behavior seems to be tied into the Samsung TVs themselves rather than the Plex service.

Reports of invasive ad activity have been cropping up about Samsung TVs for a few weeks, but threads on the Plex forums and Reddit recently drew attention to a new and more obnoxious advertisement. While watching their own content via Plex, Australian users (but no one from other parts of the world) had to sit through occasional 30-second ads for Pepsi products with perfect picture, but no audio.

MORE: Best TVs Right Now

Putting their collective heads together, Plex users discovered two things: The ads appeared to be tied to Samsung's optional Yahoo ads program, and they were probably being shown in error (hence the lack of audio). I contacted Samsung and confirmed at least one of these theories.

"We are aware of a situation that has caused some Smart TV users in Australia to experience program interruption in the form of an advertisement," a Samsung representative told Tom's Guide. "This seems to be caused by an error, and we are currently conducting a full and thorough investigation into the cause … We would like to apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused."

As for whether the ads are specifically tied to Samsung's affiliate program with Yahoo, it seems likely. Users have determined that by going into the settings menu and opting out of Yahoo ads, they can prevent the Pepsi ads from interrupting their private media collections.

Samsung says that this incident was an error, and that's almost certainly true. However, one thing is clear: Samsung is, at the very least, experimenting with running ads in third-party apps. Don't be shocked if this type of advertisement makes a full return in the future, or if other manufacturers begin to try similar programs.

The fact of the matter is that Samsung makes very little money from apps. They're free to download, and your subscription fees go directly to Netflix, or Plex, or whichever company developed the program. Running ads over third-party apps could recoup some of the cost, and consumers have very little control over how manufacturers choose to display ads on their devices.

Take, for example, the Xbox 360. After a dashboard update in 2011, the console started running video ads at the bottom right corner of every home screen, even if you were a paid Xbox Live subscriber. Fans recoiled against these bandwidth-wasting eyesores, but four years later, they're still going strong and don't appear to be going away anytime soon.

Marshall Honorof is a staff writer for Tom's Guide. Contact him at Follow him @marshallhonorof. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.

Marshall Honorof

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi. 

  • Onus
    Forcing people to watch ads while viewing personal, non-commercial content? Someone needs to be spanked really hard over this.
  • ern88
    Samsungis going from good t ba quickly with this. But I can see this will be the future for TV Ads. I bet it won`t be long and we`ll see all Smart TV`s do this!!!
  • cirdecus
    I'm seeing a pattern of Samsung bias from Marshall Honorof on these recent TV articles. There's always an excuse he gives for Samsung. I don't know if he's just a Samsung fanboy, but its getting old.

    On recouping costs through advertisement, because poor Samsung isn't making any money from TV apps like Netflix, is not a compelling reason to insert ads. Remember, those apps are developed, not by Samsung, but by the service providers. Samsung has virtually zero cost in allowing the apps to run on their TV's. In fact, they certainly charge Netflix, Hulu and other companies a hefty fee to include them in a premium home space. Samsung is making money hand over fist with these fees.

    These ads are simply a new revenue stream to increase profits. They aren't "balancing" any costs with them.
  • nebun
    people need to stop bitching...they know what they are purchasing...we can forget about privacy these days...there is no such thing anymore, there never was...get used to it
  • nebun
    if you really want to be sure your tv is not sending data then don't connect it to the wifi....problem tv software is cumbersome to use anyways
  • Tanner Fredrickson
    Samsung isn't going from good to bad, because they were never "good". They're the same as Apple, two sides of the same coin really.

    Every phone and tablet of theirs has been burdened by heavy skins and copious amounts of bloatware. They've been nearly as overpriced as Apple, and they quietly allow the same Human rights violations in their manufacturing chain as Apple.

    Additionally, they've always played the panel lottery with TVs, shipping some customers inferior panels without warning, and without changing the model number, even from the TVs in the same line with better panels.

    The only thing I've seen from Samsung perform consistently up to spec are their SSDs.
  • derekullo
    So if you enable Yahoo ads in the settings menu you are displayed ads.
    Where they expecting to not get ads with displaying ads being enabled?

    I would also opt out of Microsoft ads and Google ads if given the option.
  • Russell Mezger
    I mean... what? "Samsung makes very little money from apps". They make the device and sell the device, THAT'S how they make money. Also, how would app makers feel about their content being interrupted to show ads?

    Smart TVs are already at risk of being irrelevant in the face of $40 or less streaming sticks that work better, sticking adds on apps arbitrarily would absolutely murder them.
  • InvalidError
    If they are going to start running ads on smart-TVs, I think demand for dumb-TVs is going to rise.
  • InvalidError
    15273712 said:
    I mean... what? "Samsung makes very little money from apps". They make the device and sell the device, THAT'S how they make money.
    To deliver apps on their Smart-TVs, smart-TV manufacturers need to maintain an app development and distribution ecosystem which has on-going costs. Those are not included in your TV's up-front cost so the manufacturers have to recover these some other way.

    If they cannot generate revenue from apps to support the infrastructure, the SmartTV thing is going to become an unsustainable money sink and manufacturers will abandon it.