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Smart TVs could get annoying ads just like your web browser does

Smart TVs could get annoying ads just like your web browser does


It’s developing an open standard with nine partners

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Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

Vizio, the second largest TV manufacturer in the US, is developing a new industry standard that will allow smart TVs to serve targeted ads, reports Reuters. The manufacturer has partnered with nine other media and advertising companies to create Project OAR, a new consortium that is developing the standard. Vizio says that it intends to use the technology in its forthcoming TVs.

Currently, the lack of cookies on TVs means that it’s harder for advertisers to target ads based on a household’s interests. Project OAR wants to change this by creating a single open standard that every TV manufacturer is free to use. Profit margins on TVs are infamously razor-thin, and better ads could be a boon to manufacturers.

Samsung has previously displayed ads in the menus of its smart TVs

This isn’t the first time Vizio has been interested in tracking its customers. The last time it did so, it was eventually hit with a $2.2 million fine by the Federal Trade Commission and a $17 million settlement for turning tracking on by default on its 11 million TVs without its users’ consent. As part of the settlement, Vizio agreed to “prominently disclose and obtain affirmative express consent” before tracking its customers’ viewing habits.

It’s not yet clear exactly where Project OAR’s ads will eventually be displayed. Reuters’ report notes that Vizio hopes the standard will be used by both “TV programmers and platforms,” implying that the ads could find their way into ad-supported streaming services as well as potentially into the interface of the smart TV. (We’ve contacted Vizio for clarification.)

Vizio wouldn’t be the first company to experiment with the latter. A couple of years ago, Samsung started inserting ads into the menus of its smart TV sets and even showing ads over users’ locally stored content, which drew fierce criticism.

With nine other companies involved in the consortium — including TV networks like CBS and NBCUniversal as well as advertising companies like AT&T’s Xandr — Project OAR could become a reality. There aren’t many places left where you can be free of targeted ads, and soon, the biggest screen in your house won’t be among them.