Samsung Smart TVs forcing ads into video streaming apps

Just days after its TV voice recognition software came under fire for invading privacy, Samsung users are reporting unwanted Pepsi ads appearing while they watch their Smart TVs.

Claire Reilly Former Principal Video Producer
Claire Reilly was a video host, journalist and producer covering all things space, futurism, science and culture. Whether she's covering breaking news, explaining complex science topics or exploring the weirder sides of tech culture, Claire gets to the heart of why technology matters to everyone. She's been a regular commentator on broadcast news, and in her spare time, she's a cabaret enthusiast, Simpsons aficionado and closet country music lover. She originally hails from Sydney but now calls San Francisco home.
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  • Webby Award Winner (Best Video Host, 2021), Webby Nominee (Podcasts, 2021), Gold Telly (Documentary Series, 2021), Silver Telly (Video Writing, 2021), W3 Award (Best Host, 2020), Australian IT Journalism Awards (Best Journalist, Best News Journalist 2017)
Claire Reilly
3 min read


Unwanted advertising is par for the course when you're watching broadcast TV, but do you expect it to be pushed into your lounge room by the TV itself?

Reports are emerging that Samsung smart TVs have begun inserting short advertisements directly into video streaming apps, with no influence from the third-party app providers.

The news comes just days after Samsung made headlines for another incursion into user's lounge rooms, when it was revealed that its TV voice recognition software is capable of capturing personal information and transmitting it to third parties. The issue was discovered in the fine print of Samsung's voice recognition privacy policy, but the company says it has since changed the policy to "better explain what actually occurs" during this voice capture process.

The latest complaints directed at the South Korean electronics giant relate to a Pepsi advertisement that has reportedly started to appear during content streamed through Smart TV apps from personal media libraries and video streaming services.

The issue has been reported on the Plex streaming service -- a brand of media player that allows users to stream their own video from a personal library or hard drive and push it to a smart TV.

One Plex user took to the company's customer forum to complain about the constant intrusion of ads on his Samsung TV.

"I have recently upgraded my Plex Media Server to version 0.9.1101 and every 10-15 minutes whilst watching content on my Samsung TV I get a Pepsi advertisement showing!" user Mike wrote. "At first I thought I was seeing things but no it repeats. Sometimes I can get out of it and go back to my media, others it hangs the app and the TV restarts."

Another Plex user took to Reddit to complain of a similar problem:

"I watch most of my TV shows on a Samsung Smart TV and it has been fantastic for the past year. Recently it has been stopping halfway through a show or a movie and has played a Pepsi ad that is muted. It does not do this on any other platform (PC, PS4, tablet) has anyone else experienced this?"

In Australia, customers of Foxtel, the country's largest pay TV provider, have reported similar issues on Samsung TVs. The Pepsi advertisement is once again popping up, but this time appearing during use of Foxtel's streaming app built into the Samsung SmartHub interface.

"After about 15 minutes of watching live TV, the screen goes blank, and then a 16:9 sized Pepsi advert (taking up about half the screen) pops up and stops Foxtel playing," a customer named Ian wrote on the Foxtel forums. "It's as if there is a popup ad on the TV. I have not installed any other software or apps - I just factory reset and loaded up Foxtel."

The response from Foxtel staff was swift.

"This absolutely should not be happening and has been escalated immediately," the Foxtel employee wrote in reply. "This appears to be a Samsung related issue and has been escalated to them with the highest priority."

A Foxtel spokesperson has since told CNET "this was an unintentional action by Samsung that we're working closely with them to resolve ASAP."

While unable to speak for cases overseas, Samsung Electronics Australia issued a statement on the Australian experience of the problem, saying it had now been rectified.

Samsung Electronics Australia is aware of an issue that has caused some Samsung Smart TV users to experience program interruption in the form of a Pepsi advertisement.

This was a result of an error that occurred as part of a recent software update that was not intended for the Australian market.

We can confirm that the issue has now been rectified and that there are currently no plans to introduce this type of advertising in Australia in the near future. Samsung Electronics Australia would like to apologise for any inconvenience that this has caused to our customers.

Samsung has been contacted for comment on the issue beyond the Australian experience.