This ad-supported free TV could come right out of Idiocracy

Martin Brinkmann
May 5, 2023
Updated • May 5, 2023
Music and Video

Remember the movie Idiocracy? It is funny how many of its predictions have come true or may come true in the future. There was one scene in the movie that showed a TV of the future. It showed a tiny image of a show and everything around it was plastered with ads (you can watch this particular scene on YouTube).

Telly is a new project by Pluto TV co-founder Ilya Pozin, which sounds like it could have been one of the first iterations of Ideocracy's perfected form off entertainment. The startup wants to give TVs away for free. While TVs are not especially expensive anymore, getting something for free may sound to some like an even better deal.

There is a catch though. As reported by Jano Roettgers in his Lowpass newsletter, Telly contains a second screen that is showing ads to the viewer. Teevee Corporation, that is the name of the startup, plans to start handing out these TV sets for free later this year.

The company plans to earn revenue from advertising is that is displayed on the secondary screen. The screen will have "about the height of a phone" but will stretch across the entire width of the device according to Roettgers.

Roettgers noted that the secondary display is not bombarding users with a constant stream of ads. It may also show sport scores, news, weather information and other information related to what is shown on the screen.

This means, that the secondary screen needs to have capabilities to identify the content that is playing on the main screen. This information is then used both for displaying advertising and also the non-advertising widgets.

Most of the specifics are not known at this point, but Roettgers believes that the first generation version will be makeshift and not fully have been developed by the company.

Closing Words

The interesting question here is whether there is a market for such an ad-powered TV. It is also unclear whether the system can be gamed or if there are certain requirements, such as an always on Internet connection, to even watch content on the main television.

There is certainly a market when it comes to offering content for free or for a lower price in exchange for advertising. Netflix's ad plan appears to be doing well, and Pozin's Puto TV is free entirely to watch.

Now You: would you use such a TV?

This ad-supported free TV could come right out of Ideocracy
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This ad-supported free TV could come right out of Ideocracy
A new startup is considering giving away TVs for free. The caveat? These TVS have a second display to show ads and other content.
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  1. Karl said on May 15, 2023 at 9:43 pm

    “Free TV Telly scheme launches

    Free ad-supported television upgrade initiative Telly, the brainchild of Pluto TV co-founder Ilya Pozin, has emerged from a 24-month stealth period during which the company developed what it says is the first Dual Screen Smart TV. The new form factor combines the cinematic picture quality of a 55” 4K HDR Theatre Television Display with a separate built-in Smart Screen.

    The two screens are seamlessly integrated by a premium sound bar. Telly is powered by TellyOS, an operating system built for a dual screen world, bringing experiences that go well beyond streaming into the living room.

    The company announced it has opened the reservation system at for the first 500,000 free units that will begin shipping to consumers this summer.

    According to the company, Telly is poised to not only disrupt the industry by delivering the most innovative TV in the market, but to revolutionise the industry’s business model by enabling advertisers to subsidise fully the cost of the TV itself for the consumer, and deliver it completely for free.

    “Telly is the biggest innovation in television since colour,” declared Pozin, Founder and CEO of Telly, . “Telly is a revolutionary step forward for both consumers and advertisers. For too long, consumers have not been an equal part of the advertising value exchange. Companies are making billions of dollars from ads served on televisions, yet consumers have historically had to pay for both the TV and the content they watch. All of that changes today. When I co-founded Pluto TV, we created an entirely new model that offered amazing TV content to viewers for free. Now, with Telly, we are providing the actual television for free as well.”

    The company suggests that Telly is transforming the biggest screen in the home into the world’s first truly Smart TV, which will go beyond streaming to become the main device in the living room.

    Smart Screen: Telly’s Smart Screen lets viewers stay up to date with the latest news, sports scores, weather, stocks and so much more. They can gather together around the biggest screen in the home to watch Sunday football and track fantasy scores while watching the game. Movie night? Telly’s artificial intelligence helps deliver reviews and content recommendations, all on one device.
    Video Calling: Video calls will never be the same again as consumers can connect with friends, family and work colleagues from the biggest screen in the house. Viewers can even watch their favourite movie or sports teams together with friends and family across the county.
    Video Games: Telly’s Game Room is bringing the family back together for game night, packed with more than 40 video games, from arcade classics to immersive multiplayer experiences.
    Music: Play songs from popular music services on Telly’s stunning built-in five-driver sound bar.
    Voice Assistant: “Hey Telly” connects living room experiences like nothing before with an innovative AI-driven voice assistant.
    Fitness: Telly turns the family room into a fitness studio with free advanced motion-tracking fitness programs designed for every lifestyle.

    Viewers can watch anything on Telly, from their cable or satellite TV provider to their favourite streaming app, by connecting through one of three HDMI ports built into the television or through the built-in TV tuner. Telly ships with a 4K Android TV streaming stick. Users are also able to connect their favourite streaming service or device (Roku, Amazon Fire Stick, Apple TV and more) to take maximum control over their TV viewing experience.

    “While everyone talks about Smart TVs, the reality is that TVs have not changed dramatically over the past couple of decades and the dream of truly interactive TV has never materialised,” said Richard Greenfield, General Partner at LightShed Ventures, who co-led Telly’s latest funding round. “Telly is a huge leap forward, leveraging the explosion of the connected TV ad market and the desire from consumers for greater control and interactivity that does not disrupt the TV viewing experience. The ground-breaking dual screen design enables advertisers to completely reimagine the living room experience while providing consumers an incredible TV at the easy-to-say-yes-to price of free.”

    “We built our business by leaning into the trends shaping the future of consumer entertainment and brand engagement. Gen Z and younger millennials live their lives today across multiple screens and only Telly unites those experiences into one incredible product offered at the perfect price point of free. We are thrilled to be an early launch partner with Telly and help our clients create an entirely new form of brand engagement that is truly valued by their consumers,” said Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of Vayner Media.

    “Television is the most powerful medium in the world, and MNTN’s clients know it,” said Mark Douglas, CEO and Founder of MNTN. “In today’s fragmented media landscape, we are always eager to identify breakthrough opportunities to reach new audiences, and now with Telly and MNTN, brands will be able to seriously level up their performance marketing strategy — right there on the biggest screen in the house. With Telly, a free Ad Supported TV just got real. Literally.”

    Telly was started in May of 2021 and claims to have attracted the best and brightest leaders from across the media, entertainment, advertising and consumer electronics sectors to its mission to deliver the ultimate television upgrade for the living room, for free, all supported by advertising. Leaders from Apple, Google, Amazon, Netflix, Vizio, Samsung, Roku, Comcast, Pluto TV, Sony, DIRECTV, and Nielsen have come together to launch Telly.

    “We couldn’t be more excited to introduce the world to Telly,” added Pozin. “Don’t be fooled by the free price. This is by far the most advanced television ever developed. Consumers will never look at their television the same way again after Telly transforms the TV from a monitor on the wall into the most powerful and useful device in the home. Telly is the ultimate free upgrade that actually gets better month after month with over-the-air updates constantly innovating the living room experience. There has never been anything like it before,” concluded Pozin.”

  2. Tommy said on May 6, 2023 at 2:15 pm
    1. John G. said on May 7, 2023 at 12:25 am

      What the…

  3. Graham said on May 6, 2023 at 12:38 pm

    I expect this thing to air nothing but Brawndo ads all day.

  4. Mystique said on May 6, 2023 at 11:09 am

    I haven’t seen this “Idiocracy” so cannot see the correlation or comment upon that but having these kinds of ads is just awful. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone finds a way to block the ads. I would imagine its encrypted so you cannot block the ad stream from your router level but I guarantee you that someone will open up the TV and install a mod chip or de-solder some points to disable it. It may not happen immediately but it will happen sooner or later. If you are handing out TV’s for free they will undoubtedly find their way into some idle hands and clever minds. Heck if i was getting one for free I would feel more inclined to inspect it and not only understand it but to find a way to get it to perform in the manner of which I and many others would prefer.

    I also echo the points of others here in regards to how the entire tech sector has been shaped by idiotic mobile tech. You only have to look as far as windows to see that.

    1. Kirk said on May 9, 2023 at 6:28 am

      Most folks don’t care to block ads even at the router level or even at systemwide level on their phones. You think folks are gonna open their TVs and tinker with it thus voiding warranty? Sure, the geek would do it but he would be one in a thousand.

  5. rusty said on May 6, 2023 at 6:46 am

    If you *really* needed a TV, what is to stop you from covering the advertising screen with duct tape therefore blocking it?

    1. Tachy said on May 7, 2023 at 4:24 am


      Were I live you can’t not have a TV. I’ve lived in CA and NV most of my life and there’s been more then one time I did not have a TV and it wasn’t a priority in my bugdet to get one.

      Every single time I’ve not owned one, others insisted on giving me one. So many people keep offering you finally just give in and take one to shut them up.

      Now it’s social media. When I tell people “I don’t do social media” they look at me like I’m some kind of hostile alien.

      People just assume that if they are sheeple, you must be too, and it upsets them when they find out you aren’t.

      1. Kirk said on May 9, 2023 at 6:24 am

        WhatsApp is so popular in my country that everyone and their pet dog has it. And folks look at me in disbelief simply because i don’t use it much. For the most part(it has changed recently), it relied on phone and could not be used as a standalone app on PC. Meta might cry security concerns for their decision but folks here don’t really care about privacy else they would have shifted to Signal or Briar.

        Heck, I am on IRC still since I consider it to be an easier and more ‘open’ protocol. Any device, multiple clients and little emojis to distract from wall of texts.

  6. Tachy said on May 6, 2023 at 3:26 am

    Idiocracy is the best documentary ever!

    Also, from ‘Ready Player One’ —

    Sorrento: We call this Pure O2. This is the first of our planned upgrades. Once we can roll back some of Halliday’s ad restrictions, we estimate we can sell up to 80% of an individual’s visual field before inducing seizures, so picture this…

  7. Anonymous said on May 5, 2023 at 11:20 pm

    It’s only going to get worse. Because of smartphones and social media, everything related to technology now resembles Idiocracy. People nowadays are unaware of file structures. People enjoy awful TikTok-style feeds that follow them around and spy on them. Horrible dumbed-down interfaces with overly rounded shapes, huge letters, black patterns, ads everywhere, and lacking in functionality. Everyone born after the digital age appears to be dumber than those born before the digital age.

    1. Kirk said on May 9, 2023 at 6:16 am

      TikTok was banned in my country. A dozen popular clones emerged overnight. YouTube shorts and Instagram Reels are what folks are obsessed with. The entire wealth of human knowledge in history is available at our fingertips yet we scaw away willingly both our time and data.

    2. Mystique said on May 6, 2023 at 11:01 am

      I could not agree more!

      Simple and to the point.

  8. John G. said on May 5, 2023 at 6:09 pm

    Idiocracy: “a society or group that is controlled by or consists of people of low intelligence.
    “the people in our current idiocracy deserve whatever they will get””.

    There is not the same a society controlled by people of low intelligence than a society that consists of people of low intelligence. I wonder if the modern idiocracy is a combination of the both factors, such a mixture of everything bad that can renamed as idiotcracy, or even idiotcrazy. Probably.

    1. John G. said on May 5, 2023 at 6:16 pm

      And this makes me question… What name should be given to a democracy without people/politicians of low intelligence, but in which the powerful treated us as all if we were really idiots? Is it worse to be treated like an idiot or to really be one?

      1. Tom Hawack said on May 5, 2023 at 7:09 pm

        “A democracy without people/politicians of low intelligence, but in which the powerful treated us as all if we were really idiots?”

        But that’s the very reality of democracy : freedom, freedom to innovate, to build, to vote and freedom to hurt, destroy, manipulate. People manipulated not as if but because they are definitely idiots given they let themselves be manipulated. We have I believe two fundamental responsibilities : to not hurt and to not let ourselves be hurt, provided of course maturity and mental sanity are in the scheme. Kids have only the first and slowly understand and deploy the second. Each of us may hurt or let ourselves be hurt, but stating that the offenders have the whole responsibility is IMO … an irresponsible attitude, the dogma of anarchists and leftist extremists which consider that the powerful are all bad and the ones hurt are all good : basically insane analysis IMO. There is no true democracy without education, knowledge leading to free minds. An excessively consumerist society is not particularly zealous to enlighten consumerists but rather to blind them, participating as such to their dreams of idiots believing all that is told, advertised, propagated. In other words freedom is not only a matter of institutions it is as well and before all a personal work to tend towards objectivity. The problem with this approach is that some handicapped minds have switched blind certitude to blind counter-certitudes : in that they remain intellectually imprisoned in the same way those who believe everything are.

        “Is it worse to be treated like an idiot or to really be one?”

        The answer depends on each of us I guess.
        I remember this scenario where the question is “Do you prefer to be smart and appear as an idiot or be an idiot and appear as a genius?”. Answers differ, whatever you may think. Maybe does it depend on one’s very idea of his place in life : to be or not to be and to be not means to strive to look like. Once you define yourself only by what you conceive others to define you then you won’t mind being a genius or not as long as you believe others thing you are a genius : those people will inevitably consider being treated like an idiot is far worse than being one.

      2. Someone said on May 5, 2023 at 9:31 pm

        Hey Tom, I’m living as an leftist and atheist, with other beliefs than yours, but you are truly inspiring the readers of the site, even with those deeply political thoughts, so keep it up ! :)

      3. Tom Hawack said on May 6, 2023 at 10:14 am

        @Someone, we should all be able to live as we understand it and it’d be unbearable in my view to validate our political, religious, spiritualistic commitments by means of denying those different from ours. At this point I must say that I’m basically not in favor of evoking, at least as straightforwardly as I have, political matters and perhaps as well one’s faith. I happen to slip. Slipping or not I deeply dislike any form of proselytism.

        Because I may have delivered partial personal orientations and before ending this intimate topic I’ll add this : I dislike extremism. I discovered politics when,arriving in Europe, hardly a teenager. The societal environment shifted then from a New York cosmopolitan, democratic one, in a United Nations cultural haven, within a spiritualistic education which neither promoted nor denied religion (I’ve checked all the traditions of mine), to a European, French universe felt as deeply politicized. I then figured out that I should be somewhere in the Center-Right but certainly not anywhere on the Left and even less anywhere in the Far-Right, mainly when I heard repeatedly the French Left assert “If you are not with us you are against us” which was something I never heard the French-Right say. As years passed I’ve had as many a leftist fever in my early maturity. I returned to my true nature when I realized that social justice is not a reserved domain of the Left, when i realized that I considered each of us, individually, as the only mean to change things (before all by changing ourselves) rather than a person’s dilution in a people’s mass, in a revolutionary or pseudo-revolutionary approach of the world.

        All this was quite lengthy if not lyrical. Not that I deny any of my words but rather that this is definitely not the place to share such matters. A late night fever perhaps. I’m back to technology. Early morning, clear sky, cleared thoughts.

      4. Karl said on May 6, 2023 at 6:18 pm

        @Tom H. As always a good read, pretty much agree in what you write, too tired to write a lengty response myself at the moment. Have a good weekend!

      5. John G. said on May 5, 2023 at 8:39 pm

        @Tom Hawack, it’s always a pleasure to read your comments, so good that I need to read them slowly and then think a lot to provide a good answer (or simply to give thanks, LOL). Some nights I thank God for being able to end the day, and I think about all those people who have not been able to return home alive, or with food, or money, or with a smile on their faces. Maybe I’m too young to realize the amount of injustices there are in the world, but I’m also not too old to see that the best people aren’t dumb or smart, they’re just good people and they do the best they can. Maybe being an idiot is not realizing the damage we do to others. Maybe in the future the term “idiocracy” would be synonymous of a mercyless and pietyless society, full of human beings with no ability to improve nothing by themselves, falling hopelessly into the pit of selfishness and ChatGPT easy answers.

        Where will we all go when we don’t have the need to think anymore?
        Thank you for these moments, @Tom, please do have a good weekend! :]

      6. Tom Hawack said on May 5, 2023 at 9:38 pm

        @John G. I was answering your questions and of course if we evoke compassion and love as its guide we may feel that it is another topic. Maybe is it in Christianity maybe is it less in other religions, Judaism in particular where both are tied. I remember a French actor named Roger Hanin, Jewish himself who replied to a journalist asking him his view about antisemitism, that it was above all beyond comprehension, that is, to put it roughly in my terms, basically stupid. Maybe may we wonder if both intelligence are not tied, are not the two faces of a same reality and, if they are, they wouldn’t be opposed but complementary : being bad would be stupid, being good would be intelligent, to express quickly this dialectic. Roger Hanin had not called upon compassion but upon intelligence as his first words to describe what other faiths could first consider in terms of morality.

        Also, of course, and to recall this topic about intelligence and stupidity, first to consider perhaps are the words, their meanings, their sens : what is idiot, what is intelligent? Tough to define precisely. Further even, who am i to decide of one’s intelligence? Also, even if I am rather than if I pretend to be, I might over-estimate myself, I may very well have the strength of being free of others’ opinions regarding myself and yet be perfectly idiot while maybe or not considering myself as a genius who hasn’t anything to prove … so as i see it, I see psychology as eminently complex.

        One thing might be sure, that is if we agree with a psychiatrist whose name i’ve forgotten (I think it was in the 1930s) who had stated that if we ignored (at the time anyway) what clinical insanity really was, we knew, according to this psychiatrist, that the first expression of insanity was the total loss of compassion. Now, that doesn’t mean that cold-heart people are insane but only that insanity itself is always is always accompanied by a loss of compassion.

        > ” Maybe in the future the term “idiocracy” would be synonymous of a mercyless and pietyless society, full of human beings with no ability to improve nothing by themselves, falling hopelessly into the pit of selfishness and ChatGPT easy answers.”

        It might already be the case. Who can predict tomorrows? And for those who dare they often bounce on present times to elaborate the idea that future times expand the present realities. Quite an assumption in my view. There has always been a conflict between bad and good. It seems to take greater proportions for two reasons ; 1) we are the actors of a world we live in, that is we evoke and analyze what we feel in our soul and flesh contrarily to what we perceive and analyze concerning past similar situations, 2) because of modern communication everything is de-multiplied in perception when it might not be in reality : a global brain-storming does not have the same effects as a regional one, less even than one within a few minds.

        Personally I have no evidence and no means to fear an idiotic future on the basis that idiotic things are going on presntly. Life is an experiment, humans are both laboratory workers and guinea pigs. If a humanist can nevertheless continue to have faith in mankind a man of faith in God should understandably continue further, deeper even, as i see it.

      7. John G. said on May 6, 2023 at 2:17 am

        @Tom Hawack > “Life is an experiment, humans are both laboratory workers and guinea pigs.”, this made me remember the film “Vivarium”, 2019. One of the most disturbing movies I have seen in many years. The restlessness of this movie is so desperate that after seeing it, all that remains is the inner sensation of a weird void that is difficult to identify. Until monday @Tom, please do enjoy the weekend with health and good people! :]

      8. Anonymous said on May 5, 2023 at 11:20 pm

        Free ‘reality’ TV programs punctuated by advertising for more ‘Reality’ programs. Bliss! What more could the modern human desire.

  9. Tom Hawack said on May 5, 2023 at 5:46 pm

    I never would use such a TV. Not only TV, anything free of price but expensive of advertisement given it is not essential to life : air, water, food and a shelter.

    I already suffocate with excessive ads, on TV and elsewhere, suffocate to the point that beyond an intellectual approach of advertisement — which is NOT my ideology given that I consider promoting a product is a natural behavior when exercised reasonably — it’s become quasi epidermic : I see, hear one and I change the page, station, channel … and websites if the latter couldn’t be muzzled with ad-hoc extensions : too much ads has killed my interest for advertisement. I acknowledge that it may not be — or not as strongly — the case for others.

    Advertisement is a pain in the way it’s driven. The worst IMO are advertisement campaigns where a given product is advertised simultaneously everywhere : papers, radio, tv (and maybe the Web, no idea given all are closed here before they appear). On TV (France here) we have roughly 12 minutes of ad per hour which is what we endured in the States some 60 years ago (at the time 1 minute of ads every 5 minutes, roughly). Personally I use those intervals to do anything else than watch them, otherwise I mute the sound (which is a relief, like putting a cover on garbage : still have the garbage but without the smell). What is detestable is when, on those intervals, a same ad appears twice (or even three times) as if the idea was to put that spoon deep in your brains whatever your refusal.

    Better ads, less ads would, here, reconciliate myself with that business. But too much, more and more, everywhere either would drive me nuts either create a reaction of systematical refusal : I chose the second option.

    Ideocracy, combining “ideology” and “power”. Advertisement leader of the band.

    Side-note : the Wilipedia article mentioned in the article is instructive; the YouTube video as well.

    1. Tom Hawack said on May 5, 2023 at 5:57 pm

      The link which appeared before being corrected opened [] on Wikipedia.
      The corrected link opens []
      Gorgeous, though I better understand now the link described as a movie article on Wikipedia.
      @Martin, I appreciate that mistake :=) When you think of it, ideocracy may very well apply to any form of government when economy masters it and when economy has reached a point of idiocy in great part due to unhealthy business in which advertisement is a major actor.

  10. Gabriel said on May 5, 2023 at 5:15 pm
    1. Martin Brinkmann said on May 5, 2023 at 5:28 pm

      Thank you!

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