Roku Unveils Tech to Show Ads on All TV Connected Devices

Roku has applied for a patent on technology that is said to be able to display ads over any device plugged into your television. According to reports, the patent application describes a system that interacts with devices connected to TVs via HDMI, which could include everything from cable boxes, DVD or Blu-ray players, game consoles, PCs or other video-streaming devices. The patent, filed by Roku in August 2023, was published three months later, but still hasn’t been granted. The idea is to have even more ways to display ads when consumers aren’t actively streaming content. Roku already does so on its screensaver and home screen.

“Roku is exploring ways to show consumers ads on its TVs even when they are not using its streaming platform: The company has been looking into injecting ads into the video feeds of third-party devices connected to its TVs,” writes Silicon Valley tech reporter Janko Roettgers, who broke the story on his Lowpass blog.

“This way, when an owner of a Roku TV takes a short break from playing a game on their Xbox, or streaming something on an Apple TV device connected to the TV set, Roku would use that break to show ads,” Roettgers explains, adding that “Roku engineers have even explored ways to figure out what the consumer is doing with their TV-connected device in order to display relevant advertising.”

Roku TVs “have shown ads atop live TV before,” according to Ars Technica, which provides a detailed rundown of the technology behind the feature.

As described in the patent application writes Ars, the adtech “would detect whether content was paused in multiple ways — if the video being displayed is static, if there’s no audio being played, if a pause symbol is shown anywhere on screen, or if (on a TV with HDMI-CEC enabled) a pause signal has been received from some passthrough remote control.”

Ars notes that “the system would analyze the paused image and use metadata ‘to identify one or more objects’ in the video frame, transmit that identification information to a network, and receive and display a ‘relevant ad’ over top of whatever the paused content is.”

Roettgers says that while there’s no guarantee Roku will be awarded the patent or implement the tech if it does, “the fact that Roku even explored this points to a major underlying issue: These days, TV makers hardly make any money with their physical products,” with Roku’s 2023 annual earnings report showing a loss of $44 million on its smart TV sales, streaming players and other devices.

“What brings in the bacon are ads and services,” Roettgers writes, noting “Roku generated a gross profit of nearly $1.6 billion with this business segment.”

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