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posted by janrinok on Sunday April 17 2022, @02:01AM   Printer-friendly
from the don't-connect-them-to-anything dept.

https://www.techdirt.com/2022/04/14/its-still-stupidly-ridiculously-difficult-to-buy-a-dumb-tv/

Historically, "smart" TVs aren't always particularly smart. They've routinely been shown to have lax security and privacy standards. They also routinely feature embedded OS systems that don't age well, aren't always well designed, don't perform particularly well over time, are slathered with ads, and are usually worse than most third-party game streaming devices or video game consoles.

Yet when if you go shopping for "dumb" televisions — as in just a high quality display with a bunch of HDMI ports and not much else, you're usually going to be out of luck. There are options, but guides on this front will usually shovel you toward computer monitors (too pricey at large sizes), or business-class displays (ditto).

[...] Of course it's challenging because TV manufacturers now make more money collecting and monetizing your personal data than they do selling the actual hardware. Last year Vizio noted it made $38.4 million in one quarter just from tracking and monetizing consumer viewing and usage data. It made $48.2 million on hardware (which also includes soundbars, and other products) in that same period.


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  • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Sunday April 17 2022, @04:26AM (3 children)

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Sunday April 17 2022, @04:26AM (#1237632)

    Same mechanism brought us AM/FM radio, broadcast programming, etc. I doubt that the receivers were much subsidized in the past, but the only content they could receive was certainly advertising funded so the net effect is the same.

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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by dalek on Sunday April 17 2022, @05:38AM (2 children)

    by dalek (15489) on Sunday April 17 2022, @05:38AM (#1237657)

    Targeted advertising is a good thing. Please hear me out before modding me down. It's common sense to know your audience. You won't see the same ads during an NFL game as you will watching an episode of the Bachelor. It's common sense that these generally appeal to different demographics, therefore the ads shown are different. Targeted advertising has been done for decades and there's nothing wrong with it. Content producers generally researched this information by hiring companies like ACNielsen to pay people on an opt-in basis and voluntarily share this information. I have zero problem with this because it's on an opt-in basis and people control what information they share. The advertising you refer to was placed by the content distributor or the content producer, and you weren't tracked unless you opted in and voluntarily shared information. That's how advertising works on those platforms. The content distributors and producers have to pay their bills, and are providing you an ongoing service. It's reasonable that they would need advertising because you're not paying them directly, at least not in the US, and they have recurring costs to continue providing the service.

    In the case of a dumb TV, the manufacturer generally isn't going to need to provide software updates. They have no recurring costs. Even if you're getting software updates, those aren't provided perpetually. They're usually provided for a limited period of time, and the manufacturer can budget those costs and build them into the purchase price. They don't need a second revenue stream from advertising as long as they charge enough up front to cover any costs from providing software updates later on. Advertising is hyper-targeted, directed at individuals instead of demographics. People are often tracked without being aware of what they're opting in for when buying the device. EULAs aren't exactly known for being easy for people to read and understand.

    Smart TVs are totally not the same thing as the advertising for commercial AM/FM radio and over-the-air TV. Unless the service is paid for by donations and tax dollars, you're not directly paying for commercial AM/FM radio and over-the-air TV stations. They have recurring bills to pay, and advertising pays those bills. Absolutely none of that is true for smart TV manufacturers.

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    • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 17 2022, @07:47AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 17 2022, @07:47AM (#1237678)

      Targeted advertising is a good thing. Please hear me out before modding me down. It's common sense to know your audience. You won't see the same ads during an NFL game as you will watching an episode of the Bachelor. It's common sense that these generally appeal to different demographics, therefore the ads shown are different. Targeted advertising has been done for decades and there's nothing wrong with it.

      What you describe is contextual targeting, based on content, not on the person watching the content. There's nothing wrong with that. Tracking and profiling people, like tv manufacturers apparently do, is problematic.

      Contextual targeting does work. In the Netherlands public broadcaster NPO on their websites switched from tracking to contextual targeting, and they saw their ad revenue increase [theregister.com].

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by JoeMerchant on Sunday April 17 2022, @01:50PM

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Sunday April 17 2022, @01:50PM (#1237700)

      You forgot the best part of OTA updates for "smart TVs": obsolescence at the click of a mouse button. CEO needs to boost sales numbers in the coming quarter: push an update which nudges owners to buy a new TV - either by making the old one glitchy, pushing sales promos (obvious and covert) into the software, etc. Best for the people in control, that is, and that's never really been the "consumer." Consumers have a choice to consume or not, but that's nothing like having the choice of producing or not, how to produce your product, how to sell it, etc. Vape manufacturers had the option to produce a product without nicotine, not marketed to adolescents whose brains are still forming nicotine receptor pathways, etc. They had that option, but they took the other one - not because they didn't know what they were doing, but because they were willing to accept the backlash down the road to make a quicker buck before the backlash hit. Big tobacco did a quick hit-and-run on the processed food industry - if you follow the money I would expect that a lot of it pivoted to healthcare after their work was done in the grocery store aisles.

      All of this is "opt in" nobody's "making" teenagers buy nicotine vape cartridges that happen to be twice as addictive as cigarettes, nobody is making people buy processed foods that have pivoted from causing heart disease to causing diabetes (heart disease kills the customer too quickly, diabetes is chronic suffering with a much longer payback period and overall healthcare bill.) Entertainment delivery devices are small potatoes by comparison.

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