Google is an advertising company. Most of its products make money either by serving up ads, or by collecting data to make those ads more effective. But throwing ads into a product that people pay actual money for is something that they tend to feel pretty passionate about — just ask Samsung. So when Google started serving up advertisements via the Android TV Home interface, it didn’t take a genius to guess what would happen next.
Irate users are storming the Android TV Home app listing in the Play Store by the hundred, leaving pissed-off reviews invariably scoring the app with one star. After nearly 600 total reviews, the app is showing a shocking 100% 1-star rating. The Android TV Home app barely needs a listing, it’s essentially just there to make distribution to the Android TV operating system more convenient. But damn, it’s not a good look.
A significant portion of the reviews are being left by owners of the Nvidia SHIELD, whose righteous anger comes from the fact that they paid three figures for a machine now serving up ads on their home page after the recent interface update. There are a few other categories of users, for the new Chromecast with Google TV and pricey Sony televisions (which use Android TV as their base interface). All of them are pretty pissed.
It’s worth noting that smart TV interfaces have become a new frontier for advertising in the last few years. Roku serves up ads for paying customers on the home page of its set-top boxes, dongles, and Roku-branded smart TVs. Amazon’s Fire TV interface has sponsored advertising on both the homescreen and the screensaver. But those options are popular specifically because they’re cheap, and they’re often included in the purchase of a low-power TV. Someone shelling out for the premium 4K streaming hardware in a SHIELD or all the bells and whistles in a $3000 Sony OLED TV are on firmer footing when complaining about ads on the products they paid for.
Justified or not, venting that bile on the Play Store is unlikely to make Google reconsider its recent actions. Most users will never interact with the actual app listing of Android TV Home, even when (if) their Android TV-powered device is upgraded to the new Google TV-style interface. It is sound and fury, changing nothing. But surely this isn’t going to help Android TV reverse its dismal fortunes in the streaming market.