The wider coverage and the user reports have led to a lot of confusion on the matter and so here we are looking to clear up the information - best to our understanding.
Firstly, users have reported the addition of a new “Sponsored” row on select Android TV devices. One user even posted the image shown above to further confirm this is happening.
Google has also reached out to explain it is running a pilot program. Here’s the Google quote in full:
"Android TV is committed to optimizing and personalizing the entertainment experience at home. As we explore new opportunities to engage the user community, we're running a pilot program to surface sponsored content on the Android TV home screen."
The original poster of the image says the issue was on a Sony Android TV device. In follow up comments others users have also reported the issue as surfacing on the NVIDIA SHIELD and the Xiaomi Mi Box with some attributing the change to an update to the "Android TV Core Services" app
That might not be exactly the case, and especially when it comes to NVIDIA.
We have confirmed that no SHIELD TV owner should be seeing the “Sponsored” row on their device.
What is proving to be an additional factor here is Android TV’s use of “Promoted Channels.” These are not new to Android TV and the settings for them can be found within the main settings under the “Customize Channels” section.
Heading through this setting you'll find the “Apps Spotlight” channel. This is common to most, if not all Android TV devices.
The Apps Spotlight channel is effectively a Google Play Store channel that promotes Android TV apps.
The confusion has been made all the worse due to an update that seems to have brought this channel to consumer attention recently, and at the same time as the details on the “Sponsored” row first emerged.
These are not the same thing - even though the use of “Sponsored” and “Promoted” might seem to suggest otherwise.
The easiest way to determine whether a device is showing the “Sponsored” or “Promoted” row is by the location. The “Sponsored” row appears at the top of the home screen while the "Apps Spotlight" surfaces at the bottom.
Another way to determine the difference is by trying to remove the row.
For example, as mentioned already you’ll find “Apps Spotlight” in the settings under “Promoted Channels” along with the option to enable/disable the channel by clicking the slider.
You will not find the same option for the “Sponsored” row as it cannot currently be removed/disabled or even moved by the user.
Some users have reported that when they try to remove the “Apps Spotlight” row by disabling it, it eventually reappears again. This is apparently a bug and one which will be fixed in due course by Google.
For now, the important distinction when identifying which issue an Android TV device is affected by is the actual option to remove - irrespective of whether the removal takes place or not.
To clarify, the SHIELD (and most likely the Mi Box) is not understood to be a part of any sponsored pilot program that Google might be currently working on.
We'll update this post with any further information we receive.