Fire TV devices are automatically showing full-screen ads to users

Mike Wheatley

Smart TV platforms are rapidly evolving to become advertising billboards, but until recently no platform has dared to venture into the realm of fullscreen ads that play automatically, à la traditional TV commercials.


However, that is beginning to change, with users of Amazon’s Fire TV operating system reporting that they are now seeing fullscreen ads that start playing without any user involvement. Reports on Reddit say that the fullscreen ads pop up almost as soon as the TV is switched on, and appear with zero user input, as soon as the OS loads itself up.

The reports come in the wake of similar complaints posted on Reddit by owners of the Nvidia Shield set top box. Several Shield owners posted to say that the fullscreen ads have recently begun appearing by themselves with the audio volume jacked up, following a recent firmware update. One user complained bitterly that the ads aren’t even varied, with the same commercial for a Hyundai Kona car playing again and again.

In the case of Fire TV’s fullscreen ads, they are in addition to many other ads that appear on the homescreen. FlatPanels HD says the new development can likely be traced back to the introduction of new ad formats that were introduced earlier this month. Those new ad formats included contextual search ads and non-entertainment banner ads. With the new formats, Fire TV devices will soon start displaying banner ads at the top of the home screen that advertise products and services unrelated to TV content. Previously, only content recommendations would appear there.

As for the contextual search ads, these are reported to display ads relating to user’s searches and are mostly focused on finding relevant content. So if someone asks Alexa to play that series with the lawyer from Breaking Bad, it will suggest Better Call Saul and other movies and shows featuring the same actor, Bob Odenkirk.

Amazon isn’t the first TV platform provider to launch fullscreen ads, but it’s the first that dares to deploy them automatically. On Android TV and Google TV, users will only see fullscreen ads if they hover over the content, whereas Amazon Fire TV just launches them regardless of what the user does. Obviously, it’s far more intrusive, and there’s a worry that if Amazon thinks it can get away with doing this, other platforms will surely follow.

The reports on Reddit say the Fire TV fullscreen ads first began appearing this week, days after the Fire TV update rolled out. It’s said that the update has already been applied to the latest Fire TV Stick 4K Max 2023, and will soon be coming to older Fire TV devices too.