Last week, Amazon started pushing out a Fire TV software update that advertised a couple small, but pleasant improvements: The system keyboard now supports speech-to-text within apps, and a new magnifier option helps vision-impaired users read what’s on the screen.

But this update, to version 5.2.6.0, also comes with a trade-off that makes banner ads impossible to ignore on the Fire TV home screen. If you want to browse through Amazon’s selection of videos, movies, and apps, you’ll probably have to scroll past an advertisement along the way.

This is an obnoxious step backward for an interface that had been making great strides. And unlike Amazon’s ads on other devices, the Fire TV’s banner ads cannot be removed, not even for a price.

Jared Newman / TechHive

Using an Amazon Fire TV? Get used to encountering ads like this one.

Ads in the spotlight

Banner ads aren’t new to the Fire TV, but originally they resided at the top of the screen, and despite the prominent placement, they never got in the way of using the device. To highlight an ad, you had to scroll up from a given section, in the opposite direction from that section’s menu items.

firetvoldui Amazon

The old Fire TV interface: Ads are easy to see, but out of the way.

Ads became even less prominent in the interface overhaul that Amazon launched last year. From the main menu, ads were only visible when you scrolled to the Fire TV’s top navigation bar, with a banner ad appearing immediately above. Again, you would have to deliberately navigate one more click upward to highlight the ad.

The latest update does away with subtlety, sticking a banner ad inside each of the Fire TV’s menu sections for Home, Your Videos, Movies, TV Shows, and Apps. The ads appear underneath the first two rows of non-sponsored content in each section, and are also visible while you use the navigation bar.

Because of this placement, you must now step over banner ads just to navigate the Fire TV’s main menus.

firetvad3 Jared Newman / TechHive

“Sponsored” banner ads are constantly getting in the way in the latest Fire TV update.

It’s worth pointing out that Roku devices have home screen ads as well. But again, Roku at least has the sense not to impinge on basic navigation, putting its ads along the far right-hand side of the home screen where users can only reach them deliberately.



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