A recent pilot program launched by Google has transformed the launcher on Android TV sets, updating them to include advertisements. This is the very last thing most users want, particularly users who have shucked out top dollar for televisions that don’t display ads.
XDA-Developers broke the initial story, with reports that a recent Android TV update added a row of advertisements to various devices, including the Nvidia Shield, Sony smart TVs, and the Mi Box 3 by Xiaomi. Unhappy users have been sounding off about the changes, with many asking about how to either revert them or remove them permanently. In response, Google provided the following statement:
Android TV is committed to optimizing and personalizing the entertainment experience at home. As we explore new opportunities to engage the user community, we’re running a pilot program to surface sponsored content on the Android TV home screen.
Sony has also updated their own support page, though they don’t mention anything about a pilot program. Their post is almost hilariously short and to the point:
Yes it changed, no you can’t change it back, and it’s all Google’s fault. The good news is, Sony is wrong. You can disable the ads, at last for now, as discovered by Reddit users. Digging them out requires uninstalling a Google Android TV Core Update. Doing so may restore the ability to disable the display of sponsored TV content on Android TV. He notes that you’ll have to disable auto-updating to lock out this change. It’ll also crash the Android TV home screen, though this can be restarted by pushing the Home button. Once you’ve done this, ads can be removed with the minus button or disabled via the Channel Settings Page (or so reddit user Felisens reports).
This kind of product change, even on TVs that costs thousands of dollars, represents a serious flaw in the hardware ecosystem. Sony is clearly happy to shove the entire responsibility for the issue over on to Google. Google isn’t exactly known for being beholden to its end users or responding to feedback.
The arrogance of calling this a pilot program is astounding. This isn’t a feature test being pushed out to a small group of users. Google has seized screen space to make revenue for itself. When Microsoft pulls this kind of stunt in Windows 10, users go ballistic. A pilot program is typically something people sign up for or opt into, not shoved into people’s devices without their consent.
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