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TeeVee, a new company created by Ilya Pozin, the co-developer of free-ad-supported live streaming TV service Pluto TV. The company formally launched Monday the Telly TV billed as “a disruptive” new smart TV and associated business model based on providing a free dual-screen 4K UHD TV system supported by ad-based dual-screen smart TV services.

News of the service had been leaked several weeks ago, but the the company came out of the dark to the rest of the world by dropping a press release Monday.

In a statement, Pozin said Telly has been in stealth development for the past 24 months building “the first Dual Screen Smart TV”. The 55-inch 4K UHD smart TV features “a built-in smart screen” and “a premium sound bar” that integrates the big screen and smart screen experiences for multi-functional tasks and activities.

Telly was started in May of 2021 by bringing together “leaders” from the media, entertainment, advertising and consumer electronics industries to create “the ultimate television upgrade for the living room, for free, all supported by advertising.”

The company said these leaders were culled from companies including: Apple, Google, Amazon, Netflix, Vizio, Samsung, Roku, Comcast, Pluto TV, Sony, DirecTV, and Nielsen.

Telly has also developed a new TellyOS smart TV platform to drive the integrated experiences “that go well beyond streaming into the living room”. The company said it has opened “the reservation system” at for the first 500,000 free Telly TV units, with shipping scheduled to begin this summer. You’ll need to submit credit card details, just in case.

Hardware details were sketchy, but the base unit appears to include a 55-inch 4K LCD TV screen with some level of high dynamic range (HDR) support. The integrated soundbar is said to have five drivers and a built-in microphone for the “Hey Telly” AI voice control system.

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Other features include a built-in HD camera for video calling, fitness and interactive gaming, and a built-in motion sensor that automatically wakes up the television upon detecting movement in the room.

The company said the Telly will ship bundled with a 4K streaming stick (Android) for apps and a built-in tuner for OTA channels (which tuner version was not disclosed). The TV includes 3 HDMI ports, 2 USB ports, built-in WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity.

The company said it plans to continually update the system OS firmware. This is similar to companies like Roku and to an extent Android/Google TV and Fire TV.

However, Telly appears to be going one-better than company’s like Roku, and Amazon’s Fire TV, which have been offering mostly low-priced high-value TVs and streaming devices, by providing the hardware at no cost to the user by generating back-end revenue through advertising. It’s likely the company will also benefit from data sharing and revenue generation from streaming service partners carried on the platform.

Telly stops short at explaining the level of privacy sacrifice users will be required to give up to datamining. The hardware includes a mic and camera in the hardware. Also not known is the amount of advertising these various experiences will push on viewers’ time and patience as the price for “free” TV.

Telly’s user agreement states the company gives users the right to opt-out of sharing viewing and activity data, “but unfortunately, that means you will no longer have access to the services and must return the television. If you opt out and do not return the television to Telly, Telly will charge the credit card on file.”

Telly does not allow users to resell its device or services “unless agreed to.” It also warns that it reserves the right to change its terms in the future for things like charging for content services, etc. The terms of service are available here.

While unusual for the United States, the concept is not altogether original in other parts of the world, where companies like China’s Xiaomi have quickly risen to the top of the smart TV market in China, Asia and parts of Europe by subsidizing some of the cost of the TV with back-end revenue generation through integrated streaming and broadband services, as well as revenue sharing with partners and advertisers.

Similarly, cable companies like Comcast (with XClass TVs in the U.S. and Sky Glass TVs in Europe) have gone “on the offensive” experimenting with low-cost smart televisions subsidized by its own broadband, multichannel and streaming services and platforms. The level of success for those experiments have not been disclosed.

Telly is, however, somewhat unique by advertising its dual-screen smart TV system “for free,” (at least up front and for the the first batch of sets). Stay tuned for further developments.

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

“Telly is the biggest innovation in television since color,” stated Pozin. “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.”

According to the announcement, the Telly TV is comprised of “Smart Screen” that keeps viewers up to date on the latest news, sports scores, weather, stocks etc. This will enable watching programs like football games on the big screen while simultaneously engaging in fantasy league scoring activities on the attached smaller smart screen. Movie viewers will be able to use the system’s “artificial intelligence” to deliver pertinent reviews and content recommendations, on the same device.

Users will be able to make video calls to watch a movie or sporting event together with friends across town or across the county.

Video gamers will have access to “Telly’s Game Room” featuring more than 40 video game titles, “from arcade classics to immersive multiplayer experiences.”

Music can be accessed from popular music services for playback on Telly’s built-in five-driver sound bar.

Users can access a built-in AI voice assistant to “connect to living room experiences,” the company said.

To keep fit, Telly provides access to “advanced motion-tracking fitness programs.”

In addition, the company assures that “viewers can watch anything on Telly, from their cable or satellite TV provider to their favorite streaming app, by connecting through one of three HDMI ports built into the television or through the built-in TV tuner.”

Rather than restrict users from their favorite streaming platforms, “Telly ships with a 4K Android TV streaming stick.” In addition users are also able to connect media streamers like Roku, Amazon Fire Stick, Apple TV and others.

“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 materialized,” 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 groundbreaking 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, a Fast Company. “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.”

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By Greg Tarr

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