I appreciate Google's transparency in their November 2020 Terms of Service update:
YouTube’s right to monetize. We’re gradually starting to serve ads on a limited set of brand-safe videos on channels not in the YouTube Partner Program or not under a monetizing agreement. There won’t be revenue share from these ads, but Creators can still apply for the YouTube Partner Program once they reach the eligibility criteria, which remain unchanged.
Ads are becoming increasingly ubiquitous, but I've found a workaround. Since the DMCA takedown against youtube-dl was dropped by GitHub, I'm putting more effort into a Plex library for my YouTube subscriptions. And just for clarity, I do support my YouTube subscriptions through Patreon, and I purchase all my Plex content legally.
As for my experiment to find an ad-free alternative to Roku, here are the results so far:
- Raspberry Pi 4 with LibreELEC:
This option proved to be less user-friendly. Accessing Plex would require an extension, which comes at the cost of several PlexPass features. DNLA seems like a better route.
- Raspberry Pi 4 with AndroidTV via LineageOS:
The GApps version of AndroidTV has a built-in, non-removable ad at the top. It's a step up from LibreELEC, but not ideal due to the ad presence.
I'm back to square one, it seems. But I do have a 2011 Mac mini. Plex has an app for macOS HTPCs that could be promising, although they've recently dropped support for it.
I'm also considering giving my "SmartTV" a try but would need to find a way to turn off its analytics. Still exploring options, but I'm not giving up yet.