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Telly Offers Free 55-Inch TVs, But Here's What It Will Actually Cost You

Spoiler alert: There'll be lots of ads and data tracking.

Sarah Lord Associate Writer
Sarah Lord covers TVs and home entertainment. Prior to joining CNET, Sarah served as the tech and electronic reviews fellow at Insider, where she wrote about everything from smart watches and wearables to tablets and e-readers. She began her career by writing laptop reviews as an intern and subsequent freelancer at Tom's Hardware. She is also a professional actor with many credits in theater, film and television.
Expertise TVs, Home Entertainment, Streaming, Computers Credentials
  • Member of Screen Actors Guild and Actors Equity Association
Sarah Lord
3 min read
Telly TV on a white background

Telly offers a free 55-inch TV with a separate display for ads and widgets. 


A startup is offering a free 55-inch TV with a second screen, an integrated soundbar and an included camera. What's the catch? Well, in exchange for the TV, users must agree to constant advertising and activity tracking.

Telly, founded by Ilya Pozin -- the co-founder of Pluto TV -- announced Monday that it has opened a waitlist for its free dual-screen TV. The second, smaller screen sits below the main TV and soundbar and acts as a display for ads and widgets. While ads will stay out of the way while you're watching TV, they could take over both screens when the TV is not in use. 

In an interview with The Verge, Dallas Lawrence, Telly's chief strategy officer, said that Telly is working on many different ways to place ads on both screens. "There are literally hundreds of things we are thinking about to create the most engaging ad experience ever," he said.

On top of constant advertising, people will also have to agree to fork over plenty of data. The company states in its privacy policy that it will collect data on "the audio and video content you watch, the channels you view and the duration of your viewing sessions." 

Additionally, it will monitor when and how you use your TV, including "your search queries, settings preferences, applications you open, purchases or other transactions you make, buttons you select, the time, frequency and duration of your activities, the physical presence of you and any other individuals using the TV at any given time, and other usage data."

If you want to opt out of the monitoring, you'll have to return the TV or pay the company $500. 

While many smart TVs display ads and collect data, there are always settings in which users can turn off much of the data collection.

For those who never bother to change their privacy settings, Lawrence is certain that Telly is a good deal. "The only difference between the data we collect and what every other TV manufacturer collects today is that we ask the consumer up front to share it, and we give them a $1,000 TV for free in exchange," he told CNET. 

It's unclear how he arrived at the $1,000 price tag, as the company is only charging half as much if you opt out of ads.

Lawrence also insists that privacy is very important to Telly. The TV's camera comes with a physical privacy shutter, as well as a light that indicates when it is on. He said the camera does not record or transmit any data to the company, instead saying it's for Zoom, interactive games and fitness apps. While the privacy policy makes it clear that the TV is tracking the physical presence of those using it, that tracking is taken from an included passive motion sensor -- like those found on smart home thermostats and voice assistance -- rather than from the camera.

The addition of an included soundbar, camera and second screen makes the Telly unique among 55-inch TVs. The TV itself appears to lack QLED, mini-LED, full-array local dimming or any other sort of advanced technology to enhance its picture quality. A standard 55-inch TV with basic picture specs similar to the Telly costs around $300 to $400. Of course, you'd have to pay more for an additional soundbar, which would add on around $100 or more.

Correction, May 16: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated how Telly will monitor some TV usage. It will have a passive motion sensor to track the physical presence of people using the TV.