TV startup TeeVee is building a free, ad-supported telly

Mike Wheatley

The co-founder of ad-supported video streaming service Pluto TV is planning to launch a new startup later this year that will give away a free TV to anyone who wants one.


The startup, known as Teevee Corp., is betting on the idea that consumers will willingly embrace an “ad-supported TV”. The company was founded in April 2021 by Pluto TV’s co-founder Ilya Pozin, according to a report by Lowpass that cites multiple sources familiar with its plans.

Lowpass reported that Pozin is developing a new kind of TV set that incorporates a “persistent second screen” that will display advertisements and informational widgets. TeeVee’s plan is to give the TV away for free, and then monetize those viewers entirely through ads that appear on the second screen. Until now, the startup has been operating in stealth mode, and its plans had been kept entirely under wraps until Lowpass reported on them.

Pluto TV is one of the leading players in a relatively new breed of Free Ad-Supported Streaming TV (FAST) services. Alongside other players, like the Roku Channel, Amazon Freevee, Plex and Tubi, it offers free access to streamed content with regular ads.

TeeVee appears to be betting on the unstoppable nature of the ad-supported streaming trend. As The Verge reported last month, it’s becoming clearer than ever that the future of video streaming is an ad-supported one. The number of people tuning into FAST services is growing by the month, while premium streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ struggle to hold onto their existing customer bases - and even embrace ads themselves. Pozin clearly thinks he’s found another way to capitalize on the trend.

He’s already done a good job with Pluto TV, which last year surpassed its FAST rivals to become one of the top-ranked streaming services overall, Vulture reported. Last August, it counted almost 70 million monthly active users, more than double the number of MAUs on the subscription-based service Peacock.

TeeVee’s website, and a second domain also owned by the company, hints at the release of an ad-supported TV later this year, saying it will be “the biggest thing to happen to TV since color." The site doesn’t provide any other details at all, which is standard for a company operating in stealth mode. However, Lowpass claims that the TeeVee TV, which will be called “Telly”, will be an all-in-one device made up of a decently-sized screen, a soundbar and a second screen that’s integrated with the first. The second screen will, presumably, display lots of ads alongside useful information such as the weather, sports scores, news headlines and more.

The Telly won’t be a smart TV, Lowpass says, but rather rely on bundling existing streaming dongles such as Roku and Amazon in order to access other streaming content. The TV will most likely use a technology called “Automatic Content Recognition” that relies on machine learning AI to check what the viewer is watching, in order to tailor those ads for each viewer. So the price you’ll be paying for a free TV is that it’ll constantly watch what you’re watching.