This wild new TV is free to own – but at what price?

A 4K smart TV for free? There must be catch, right? Ilya Pozin's Pluto TV streaming company already provides free content supported by ads, but now Pozin's promising to make the hardware free too – and not just a bog-standard set. Telly will provide video calling, games, fitness programmes and more.

But indeed there is a catch. A Telly TV won't cost you a cent, but it will show you ads and take your data in return. The device has a second screen to beam advertising to you alongside other widgets. All day, every day (see our pick of the best TVs for a more traditional option).

Free Telly

It may be free, but imagine having to deal with seeing that Kia logo every day (Image credit: Telly)

Only a month ago, we reported on FreeWater, which aims to revolutionise how we think about products by offering free food and drink paid for by heavy advertising on the packaging. While FreeWater can only incorporate static non-personalised ads in its packaging, Telly will rotate ads based on users' interests.

Describing itself as the 'biggest thing to happen to TV since color', it's offering a 55in 4K HDR Theater Display for free. The device comes with a narrow 'Smart Display' separated from the screen by a soundbar. This second screen is sold as a benefit – it will display widgets, such as sports scores, news, weather and stock prices, and may be used in games. But it will also show adverts.

Telly

It seems the second screen may also be used for games (Image credit: Telly)

Ads will appear like banner ads in a space on the right-hand side of the display and also in a sponsored news feed on the left. When signing up, customers will be asked questions about their household in order to optimise the ads they're shown. Telly says these will be non-intrusive, although it's suggested that it's considering also showing ads on the main screen when it isn't being used. Other ideas being considered include reward programmes that will award people with gift cards if they take part in polls.

The soundbar has five drivers and, according to the company, delivers excellent bass. Sitting in the middle of it is a camera, which Telly says will be used to provide Zoom integration and free motion-tracking fitness programs. It says the camera will have a privacy shutter.

Telly

Telly has an AI-driven voice assistant (Image credit: Telly)

The two displays are linked by Telly's operating system, TellyOS, and the device will come with a free 4K Android TV dongle to allow the use of streaming apps. It's also compatible with Roku, Amazon Fire Stick and Apple TV. The screen has three HDMI inputs, 2 USB and a tuner. There's also an AI-driven voice assistant that responds to “Hey Telly,” 40 games and music streaming, although the company doesn't specify from which services. 

The big question is what Telly gets in return. Its privacy agreement says it may collect information about what channels and content users view, the duration of viewing sessions and how people interact with the device, for example, search queries and 'physical presence of you and any other individuals using the TV'. Can you opt out? Yes, but if you don't return the TV, your credit card will be charged $500.

Although Telly's merely applying a model that's widely used by many media outlets, the idea of having adverts continually appear in our home feels a little dystopian. If it works and other companies follow suit, we could end up with adverts everywhere. Even devices that don't currently have displays could be fitted with screens so they can display ads. Our toaster could tell us what bread to buy and our fridges could promote the latest supermarket offers. At what point will we decide the saturation is too much?

If you're tempted you visit freetelly.com to request one of an initial batch of 500,000 devices that are due to start shipping in the summer. See our pick of the best TV for PS5 for more options.

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Joseph Foley

Joe is a regular freelance journalist and editor at Creative Bloq. He writes news and features, updates buying guides and keeps track of the best equipment for creatives, from monitors to accessories and office supplies. A writer and translator, he also works as a project manager at London and Buenos Aires-based design, production and branding agency Hermana Creatives, where he manages a team of designers, photographers and video editors who specialise in producing photography, video content, graphic design and collaterals for the hospitality sector. He enjoys photography, particularly nature photography, wellness and he dances Argentine tango.