By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man –@tvanswerman
TV Answer Man, do you think this free Telly TV is a good idea? Do we know how the set works and whether it’s any good? — Tony, Las Vegas.
Tony, Telly, a new company founded by the co-founder of Pluto TV, announced today that it’s taking registrations for 500,000 free 55-inch 4K TVs. The company says the free sets will be delivered this summer.
The TV has a dual screen with your Smart TV programming on the top screen and a running ticker on the bottom smaller screen that will include advertising, news and other information. Telly says the ad revenue will offset the cost of providing the free sets.
You can register here to get on the list for the free sets. But I am telling you not to do it.
Why? Four reasons:
1. The TV’s manufacturer is unknown.
I don’t mean it’s not a name brand. I mean we don’t know who it is. We have no idea what kind of TV this is. Will it be a quality set? A low-budget knock off? Who knows.
2. The company’s press release and web site doesn’t even have a contact person.
I have many questions about Telly’s TV, and advertising policies, but who do I ask? I sent a question about the TV’s manufacturer to the Telly CEO on Twitter, and the company’s Twitter customer service team, but haven’t received a response. An industry contact on Twitter gave me the name of a company marketing executive and I have e-mailed him with a question about the set’s manufacturer. So far, no response.
Update: I have received a response from Telly:
“While we are not releasing the name of the manufacturer, what I can tell you is that Telly’s TV screen is made by the same manufacturer that produces many of the world’s top of line TV sets today. The panel manufacturer that we work with is one of the largest in the world (probably makes 1 in 5 panels sold today).“
3. The privacy requirements and ramifications are concerning. To say the least.
Dallas Lawrence, the aforementioned Telly marketing executive, did an interview with The Verge in which he said the television could start displaying ads whether you’re using it or not.
“When the Theatre display (top screen) is not in use, the ad unit could come to life in a fun way connecting both,” Lawrence told the publication. “There are literally hundreds of things we are thinking about to create the most engaging ad experience ever.”
There’s also a camera in the middle of the soundbar that separates the advertising screen and the Smart TV screen. Lawrence tells The Verge that it has a privacy shutter that you can turn on and off. Uh, okay…
But this might be the scariest part of the interview. According to Telly’s privacy terms, the company says:
“(Telly) may collect information about the audio and video content you watch, the channels you view, and the duration of your viewing sessions. That includes your search queries, the buttons you select, as well as the physical presence of you and any other individuals using the TV at any given time.”
The physical presence of you and any other individuals using the TV at any given time? And how would it know who was in the room at any given time? It can’t be that camera you can turn on and off, right? Because it would be off, right?
4. The TV is free but you could wind up paying.
Telly’s terms also say this:
“You have the right to opt-out of sharing your Viewing and Activity Data, but unfortunately, that means you will no longer have access to the Services (and must return the television). If you opt out and do not return the television to Telly, Telly will charge the credit card on file in the amount of $500.00.”
So at any point, if those privacy concerns get to be too much for you, and you don’t want to share your data any longer, you have to return the set or pay up.
To learn more about Telly’s privacy rules, click here.
Bottom line: You know the old saying. If something seems too good to be true, there’s probably a reason. And I’ve got four reasons why this is too good to be true.
Telly TV represents the greatest attempt at invading the privacy of the American living room in TV history. It may not be Big Brother but it could be his little sibling.
Tony, hope that helps. Happy viewing and stay safe!
Have a question about new TV technologies? Send it to The TV Answer Man at email@example.com Please include your first name and hometown in your message.
— Phillip Swann