Android TV now includes sponsored content on the home screen

Sony X900F
Image Credit: Sony

As part of a pilot program, Google has added a new sponsored content section to some Android TV devices, the company confirmed in a statement to XDA Developers.

That reaffirms an earlier report of some users noticing advertisements appearing on their Android TV-based Sony X900F TVs, though a statement from an Nvidia representative denies that the ads are appearing on Shield TVs – which implies that the problem might just be contained to Sony smart TVs. 

If the update has been deployed to your device, you’ll notice a new 'Sponsored Content' row on the home screen in between your recommended content. 

Unlike other channels on Android TV, those who have the update claim the sponsored row cannot be customized in any way, nor can it be removed in the typical way – requiring those users to disable the Android TV Core Services app and manually restart the system. 

That said, while no one likes seeing advertisements spring up in a place where there were none before, what’s particularly frustrating is the way in which Google stealthily deployed the update and in the lengths some users have needed to go through to remove them.

 Another victim of the advertising age 

Placing advertisements – or, as Google calls it, Sponsored Content – is a touchy subject for TV and home entertainment enthusiasts. Both TiVo and Roku caught flak when they introduced advertisements to their respective devices, and Vizio was fined $2.2 million for its deceptive ad practices in 2017.

To its credit, Sony has already deployed an FAQ about the new sponsored content section on its TVs answering questions like “What determines which apps will appear in the Sponsored channel?” and “Can I add or remove the apps in the Sponsored channel?” (The answers to those are: Google determines this content, and no, they can’t be removed.)

What Sony makes apparent in the post is that this is very clearly a Google mandate – Sony may use Google’s smart TV platform but it’s not in charge of these ads.

So why is this happening? According to Google, “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.” 

...Which, if you ask us, sounds like a really polite way of saying "we're putting ads on your TV".

Nick Pino

Nick Pino is Managing Editor, TV and AV for TechRadar's sister site, Tom's Guide. Previously, he was the Senior Editor of Home Entertainment at TechRadar, covering TVs, headphones, speakers, video games, VR and streaming devices. He's also written for GamesRadar+, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade, and he has a degree in computer science he's not using if anyone wants it.