Will also show ads when pausing movies, TV, and more.
A figure from the recent Roku patent where they show how an ad would display when a game, movie, or TV show is paused.

Roku just filed a patent that would allow their line of televisions to display ads when the scene is idle or paused. Roku's patent specifically references third-party devices that are connected to its TVs via HDMI, which includes game consoles and streaming devices such as a Google Chromecast, Apple TV, or an Amazon Fire Stick-like device.

This patent was first spotted by Lowpass from writer Janko Roettgers. The patent is called "HDMI customized ad insertion" and it describes a system that would allow Roku to display an ad on their smart TVs whenever they are considered to be idle. This "idle" state would presumably apply to states such as a paused video game, paused streaming television show, or a paused movie.

Their system would be able to detect when a TV is idle by monitoring audio and video from the connected device. If no audio is playing and the video frames they grab are unchanged over a period of time, their system would consider the device idle. This would then lead to an ad being displayed. What isn't stated is how quick Roku's system would be to respond to changes on screen. Even the slightest delay in removing the ads from view when a game or movie is resumed would be more than a little infuriating for most users.

Roku makes most of its money from advertising. Roku spent $538 million to manufacture their hardware devices for the 12-month period ending September 2023. That hardware sold for just $471 million in the same span of time, resulting in a loss from hardware sales. This apparently does not take into account any added expenses related to administrative costs, marketing, or research and development. According to The Motley Fool, 86% of Roku's revenues come from advertising. In that same 12-month span of time where Roku was selling their hardware at a loss, they pulled in $2.9 billion of revenue from advertisements.

Televisions with Roku built into it have a "Roku City screensaver" functionality. This screensaver tends to kick on and run for a bit very shortly after a connected device is powered off. I have personally seen it many times after I have turned off my PlayStation 5 but have not yet turned off my TV or switched the input over to my Chromecast device. This screensaver depicts a cityscape background with "billboards" adorned with TV or movie promotions scrolling on by.

Even though Roku filed for this patent, there is no saying yet whether or not it will ever be implemented into their ecosystems.