Roku plans to bring more ads to its home screen

Mike Wheatley

Smart TV company Roku has said it’s planning to increase the amount of ads viewers will see on the home screens of its devices in future.


In an interview with Adexchanger, Roku’s vice president of global ad sales and partnerships, Kristian Shepard, said the plan is to “immerse advertisers in more parts of the screen and home” with the introduction of “interactive and shoppable” ad formats.

Those ads won’t be limited to entertainment and media as before, but will extend to products such as cars. Shepard’s statement suggests Roku plans to build on the introduction of interactive ads that was announced in June. The company said at the time that interactive ads will act as “virtual showrooms” and enable viewers to explore a “virtual catalogue” within them. According to Shepard, the company has already experimented using such formats with brands like Subaru, and now wants to explore other industries such as travel.

Ads becoming more prevalent

Roku offers one of the best smart TV operating systems around, and besides its own devices it has also been adopted by many other TV brands. It’s noted for its simple layout and innovations such as its bigger, better menu that launched last year, as well as an interface that makes it easier to find stuff to watch. Ads are necessary to provide revenue, especially so for a company that’s focused on lower-cost devices, but do we really want more ads on the home screen?

The news is worrying because it accelerates a trend that has been seen across other TV platforms. For instance, Amazon Prime Video recently began inserting more ads that will be seen unless viewers agree to pay more to subscribe to a higher tier. The worry is that anyone with a Roku TV device is going to be constricted by a cluttered, ad-ridden home page, before diving into an app such as Prime Video and seeing yet more ads.

On Roku devices, the home screen already provides up to a third of its screen real estate for ads, so questions will be asked about if viewers are going to see even more. Roku does at least explain how users can change their ad preferences on its website in order to control the kinds of ads they see, and even hide them. But will this still be possible once the new ad formats arrive?

Unfortunately that’s unlikely to be the case, as Shepard told Adexchanger that “with more reachcomes more opportunity for advertising”. Roku already has an extensive reach thanks to the low cost of its devices, and it appears it has now decided to step things up as it attempts to monetize its large user base.


If we’re going to be honest, more ads were always going to show up sooner or later on Roku TV. Like Amazon’s Fire TV, its strategy is focused on selling very affordable devices sold at near, or even below cost. What’s more surprising, and worrying, is that brands like Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics are also going down this route, looking at ways to increase the ad load on their Tizen and webOS TV platforms.

For those who really don’t want to see any more ads, the best bet might be to buy an expensive Apple TV 4K device, which currently still offers a refuge from ads on its home screen.