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Google has now started rolling out its ‘Staff Pick’ highlights to Android TV, and the initial reaction does not seem to be that positive so far. While these have been marketed by the Google team as “highlights,” they are not much more than ads.
Early in the month, Google confirmed that a couple of new features were en route to Android TV. One was a new ‘subscribe’ button, designed to make it easier and quicker to sign up with a subscription service. The other was the new highlights. In Google’s own words:
We’re now sharing cinematic teasers for the most popular movies and shows handpicked for you by Google Play’s entertainment experts or sponsored by media partners.Source: Google
While it remains to be clear when exactly Google started rolling out the new highlights, they do appear to have arrived for many users already, and are likely to continue showing up for others — in the United States, at least — in the coming days and weeks. However, the initial reaction by those leaving reviews on the Google Play Store is anything but positive.
The ones shown above are just the most recent and haven’t been curated to filter out other reviews – they are literally, the most recent. A quick scan through makes it clear that the overall message here is that users are not happy with the change. While Google is positioning these as a feature that’s supposed to serve consumers with content they might be interested in, everyone appears to be seeing them for exactly what they really are – ads.
Ads by any other name are still ads
Considering Android TV has done well to remain an ad-free platform, it probably won’t matter if they are useful ‘highlights’ or not. Of course, what is also likely to be making the situation all the more worse is that Android TV users don’t appear to have much control over the new feature.
Originally, Google did explain that “You can also add in suggestions from your favorite streaming services by linking them to your Google Account from your phone or laptop.” However, there’s no real option for the opposite – when someone wants to remove the highlights/ads from a service they don’t want to see.
In one Android TV Reddit post now doing the rounds, some have pointed to a way for users to temporarily disable the feature. As it is arriving via an update to the Android TV Home app — Google lists the change as a “visual design update” — those totally adverse to the highlights can find the app in the settings menu and use the ‘Uninstall updates’ option to roll the app back to an earlier version.
However, this is not really a useful move and certainly not in the long-term. As not only is the device owner rolling the app back to an earlier version, but they will need to disable updates for that app permanently to keep the app from updating again and redeploying the same feature.
While that may be a solution for some, it is not a great idea for users to disable automatic updates for any of the Android TV core apps. Of course, if Google reads the mounting user reviews on the Play Store, then maybe a more permanent option will come that allows Android TV device owners to disable, or at least, curate the list of
Source: Google Play Store