If Google TV wants to show ads its Chromecasts and TVs need to be cheaper

Chromecast with Google TV on a pile of books next to a plant pot
The Chromecast with Google TV is starting to show users more ads (Image credit: Google)
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Some Google TV users are reporting that the operating system is showing them ads for cars and iPhones instead of the TV and film recommendations the service usually shares.

The smart TV OS that comes installed on devices like the Chromecast with Google TV 4K streaming stick – as well as a bunch of Sony and TCL of TVs like the Sony A95K QD-OLED TV – offers users a convenient way to access the best streaming services, and to curate a watchlist of content across their favorite platforms. What’s more, Google’s OS can make your TV feel especially smart by offering recommendations for shows you might enjoy based on your viewing habits.

While these recommendations are effectively adverts – a point which feels especially clear if the recommended content is exclusive to a paid service you aren’t subscribed to – at least it felt relevant to what the OS is being used for. If you had literally no idea what to watch one evening, these suggestions offered a potential place for you to start and might help you discover a new favorite film or show.

However, Google is seemingly starting to trim back on its film and show advice for some users. The front page carousel that once exclusively featured a list of content you should watch is now replacing some slots with advertising for an assortment of products and services including Chrysler cars and iPhones (via Reddit (opens in new tab)).

Many users are saying they’re still only seeing their usual suite of recommendations, but we wouldn’t be surprised if these more typical ads became much more widespread in the coming months.

Showing me ads? Show me a discount

Ads are slowly taking over all across the TV and streaming space.

Rival streaming stick Roku has made it clear that it wants to turn its TV OS into a “next-generation ad platform,” a transformation we’re already seeing with efforts like its Walmart ads that let you shop through your TV. Then there are the streaming services themselves with Netflix and Disney Plus launching ad-supported tiers in 2022. And let's not forget that recent dystopian-sounding Sony patent that would ask TV watchers to shout a brand name to end an advert.

Sony A95K TV on a white countertop

The Sony A95K QD-OLED is great, but won't be if it's full of ads (Image credit: Future)

But TV OS adverts definitely seem like the worst of the bunch. Who wants to shell out a considerable amount on a top-of-the-line Sony QD-OLED only to have it feel like an at-home billboard every time you switch it on? What’s more, unlike ad-supported services and products that have come before, there’s not yet any indication that users will be able to get a discount on Google TV streaming sticks or TVs if they agree with being shown these ads.

Unfortunately with the way things are progressing, it looks like Google TV and other mainstream smart TV platforms will just serve us ads and expect us to pay full price for the privilege.

If you want to find a better smart TV platform than Google TV then check out our picks for the best smart TV platform of 2023.

Hamish Hector
Staff Writer, News

Hamish is a Staff Writer for TechRadar and you’ll see his name appearing on articles across nearly every topic on the site from smart home deals to speaker reviews to graphics card news and everything in between. He uses his broad range of knowledge to help explain the latest gadgets and if they’re a must-buy or a fad fueled by hype. Though his specialty is writing about everything going on in the world of virtual reality and augmented reality.