Fire TV to introduce more context-relevant ad formats

Mike Wheatley

Amazon’s Fire TVs and streaming sticks are set to increase the number of ads they display to viewers following a recent update to the platform.


The online retail giant made its debut in the TV industry back in April 2014 with the launch of its first ever Amazon Fire TV media box, which cost around $100 at the time. However, the company has since launched an array of Fire TV devices, including dedicated TVs as well as affordable streaming sticks that cost as little as $20 in some countries.

It’s believed that Fire TV’s hardware-derived revenue is now in decline, Janko Roettgers reported in his weekly Lowpass newsletter. So, like many of its television operating system competitors, Amazon has decided to increase the number of targeted ads it shows to viewers to get more revenue that way.

With its latest update, Fire TV is said to be adding new ad formats such as search ads and non-entertainment banner ads, Lowpass said. What that means is that Fire TV devices will soon start showing banner ads at the top of the home screen menu, advertising products and services not related to TV entertainment. Previously, that banner was restricted to ads for TV content from providers such as Disney+.

The new ad formats will also include “context-relevant search ads”, Roettgers said. This relates to the new Alexa-powered search feature on Fire TVs, where users can ask to watch shows they can’t remember the name of. So they could ask Alexa to play the TV show with the guy who plays the lawyer from Breaking Bad, if they have forgotten that it’s called “Better Call Saul”.

With the update, advertisers will be able to take advantage of this too, and feature other shows and movies starring the actor, Bob Odenkirk. This may not be such a bad thing, however, for devoted fans of the actor.

Besides this, there will also be context-relevant ads shown when users are browsing through the Fire TV catalogue and elsewhere in the menus. Perhaps the most annoying thing though is that more advertisers will be able to place their ads at the top of the home page. Amazon is opening things up for “non-entertainment brands” to put their products and services in pole position.

Charlotte Maines, Amazon's director of Fire TV advertising, told Lowpass in an interview that the increase in ads may well prompt some users to consider looking at other TV platforms. “"If you do not enjoy using your Fire TV, you will stop using it," she conceded.

However, it’s likely that most users will simply tolerate the additional ads, because most of Amazon’s rivals – such as Google TV, Roku TV, LG’s webOS and Samsung’s Tizen – are also increasing the prevalence of ads shown to their viewers. The one hold out is Apple’s tvOS, which has so far resisted the urge to start plastering ads across its home screen.