Is America ready for the free ad-supported TV set? Ilya Pozin, the co-founder of Pluto TV (the free, ad-supported streaming service now owned by Paramount), thinks so.
On Monday, Pozin officially unveiled Telly, a company that plans to eventually give away millions of premium TV sets for free (the online reservation system opened Monday morning for an initial batch of 500,000 sets).
“For too long, consumers have not been an equal part of the ad value exchange,” says Pozin. “Companies make billions of dollars from ads that appear on televisions, but consumers have historically had to pay for both the TV and the content they watch. That all changes today. When I co-founded Pluto TV, we created an entirely new model that offered great TV content to viewers for free. Now we also offer the actual television for free with Telly.”
In a fake living room setup at Telly’s New York office last week, Pozin gave a tour of the device, which features a 55-inch 4K HDR display on top, an integrated five-driver soundbar directly below and a second smart screen directly below. . LED strips illuminate the back of the TV and project light onto the wall behind it (the LEDs can also be turned off).
Microphones at the top of the screen enable voice commands, while an HD camera (with a built-in shutter for privacy) enables video calls and exercise classes, and a motion sensor supports interactive games.
As Pozin described the device, the 55-inch screen worked like a standard TV, while the second screen displayed weather, sports scores and stock quotes, while a sponsored news ticker scrolled across the bottom. On the right was a square box with advertisements cycling through it.
“Suppose there is a football match, then we will show you sports results. Or you turn on picture-in-picture and watch another match,” says Pozin. “You can imagine making a FanDuel bet right here on that device, your fantasy sports coming up, it’s kind of like the dashboard of your car. It has your speedometer, your odometer, your navigation system, your radio, it improves your viewing experience. By the way, it also works standalone, you can turn off the top screen, leave it on and it will become your main smart home hub.”
The Telly TV set is not a cheap TV in a discount store. Pozin says that if it sold at a similar price to other TV sets, it would sell for more than $1,000, and that the goal was to build a “future-proof” TV that wouldn’t break in three or four years. would be outdated. .
“Don’t be fooled by the price. It’s not a budget TV by any means,” says Pozin, adding that the plan is to offer software updates every few weeks to add features like karaoke, games or workout classes. “It is by far the smartest TV on the market. There is nothing even close.”
A free TV set backed by advertising and data has been a long time coming, and many marketers predicted it as “inevitable” years ago. Smart TV devices like Roku, Amazon Fire, and Google Chromecast have already slashed their prices to near zero, in an effort to monetize over time through ads and data. And the price of TV sets has also been steadily declining as device manufacturers sell viewership data and deliver advertising to their own operating systems.
Telly lets users use whatever operating system they want, be it Roku, Fire TV, or even an old-fashioned cable box or antenna. Whatever consumers look at, the bottom screen will always be suitable for advertising. It comes with an Android TV dongle (which would normally cost around $30 by itself).
And of course there is the data. Crucial to the liberation of the TV set is, as Pozin says, the ‘value exchange’.
“You give us your demographics, your psychographics on an individual and household level before you even get your device, so we know who you are, we know where you live, we know your income, we know what car you drive, we know when your lease is up,” says Pozin. “We know what your favorite brands are. We know your favorite sports teams, so when you first bring your TV home, you scan a QR code with your phone , all data is already there.
“It’s delivered to that device that gives us full targeting and addressability,” he adds. “Like other TV makers, we have viewing data, but now also viewing figures of the individual household. When you put those two things together, the targeting is literally one to one. So if Toyota wants to run an ad for people who currently own a Honda whose lease is due to expire in the next 12 months, we pick those individual TVs and just those TVs and that’s where the ad comes in.”
And Pozin says marketers are already on board, with plans to reveal more details at the Cannes Lion festival next month.
“They’re all super excited and we’re working with all the major agencies,” says Pozin.
“Television is the most powerful medium in the world, and MNTN’s customers know it,” Mark Douglas, CEO and co-entrepreneur of affiliate TV advertising company MNTN, said in a statement. “In today’s fragmented media landscape, we are always looking for breakthrough opportunities to reach new audiences, and now with Telly and MNTN, brands can seriously improve their performance marketing strategy – right there on the biggest screen in the house.
Details of the amount of funding raised for Telly have not been made public, although the latest round was co-led by LightShed Ventures partner Rich Greenfield, also known as a high-profile Wall Street media analyst.
“While everyone is talking about smart TVs, the reality is that TVs haven’t changed dramatically in recent decades and the dream of truly interactive TV has never come true,” says Greenfield. “Telly represents a quantum leap, leveraging the explosion of the connected TV advertising market and consumer desire for greater control and interactivity that doesn’t disrupt the TV viewing experience.”