Is Pluto TV the Future of Television?

Michael Beausoleil

Where do TV shows go to die? Recently, streaming services has prolonged the lifespan of many shows. Fans of popular shows like Friends and The Office will never have to worry about their favorite show disappearing, though they may need to chase the shows around as they moves to various streaming services. If your favorite show wasn’t quite as popular then you may struggle to rewatch it. You can hope that a streaming service will emerge and resurrect a show like Talespin from the dead. Otherwise viewers will need to find alternate methods of viewing shows from the past.

In reality, viewers will resort to YouTube for their favorite shows of yesteryear. It’s likely someone has uploaded the show, but quality is often poor and networks aren’t benefiting from this. Technically this is illegal, though the upload will most likely just get scrubbed from YouTube before the viewer receives any recourse. There’s also people who will pirate old show. Definitely not legal and networks receive no compensation from this, but we can’t ignore the reality of people pirating media.

What if there was a happy medium? Viewers get free content, networks get some control and compensation, and old shows can be viewed again. In 2019, ViacomCBS began streaming on the service Pluto TV. This service existed for about five years prior to the ViacomCBS acquisition, but content has been seriously beefed up over the past few months. The service went from having a collection of on demand movies and streaming Hulu’s free media to having over 100 dedicated channels.

What Makes PlutoTV Unique?

By this point, we all know what a streaming service is. When someone says “streaming” in regards to television, most people think of Netflix. Maybe Hulu or Disney Plus, but the idea is that customers pay and stream. Pluto TV is different. You don’t pay and you stream.

Like Hulu, there are ads in the programs. This is why it’s free. Like cable, channels aren’t on demand (though there is an on demand library, it’s just smaller). However, the channels are super niche. If you want to watch every episode of Degrassi: The Next Generation in order, there’s a channel allowing you to do that. There are whole channels just looping through various TV series. There are also niche channels like VH1 Hip Hop Family that aren’t dedicated to one show but have a common theme among all programming.

This is a new type of streaming service, and it offers a unique structure. There are a lot of somewhat recent shows, but there is also a greater archive of older content. It’s also important to note lot of Viacom programming is noticeably missing from other streaming services. This means Pluto TV offers shows people can’t legally stream elsewhere at the best price: free.

Pluto TV is not the first free streaming service. Tubi and Crackle are other notable free services, but they follow a model similar to Hulu with on demand, ad-supported content . Pluto TV’s unique approach is closer to a cable subscription but it’s free. Of course, the limitation is older content, but it’s content many people have enjoyed in the past.

Will Pluto Expand?

It feels like Pluto adds new channels every other week, so their library is growing. So far, I have not seen a channel disappear, but I do notice myself with more channels to scroll through. This is certainly a positive and gives viewers a reason to keep watching.

The real question is whether or not they will offer a premium service. Unlike other cable providers, there is no DVR. The real question is whether or not viewers need this. For the most part, the content is not new content and the channels run on loops. Missed episodes will return. It’s not the most convenient method, but it’s still a free solution.

Pluto has discussed the possibility of offering premium channels to their lineup. Apple TV and Amazon offer this type of service, which entails a monthly subscript to receive access to a package of content that meets an individual’s interests. These are services like CBS Access or Comedy Central Now which will give the viewer the ability to watch on demand content from their favorite channel. This seems like the natural extension of a streaming service focused on mimicking cable TV.

Beyond premium channels, I don’t feel there is much need for expansion on Pluto TV. The main incentive is the free TV and on demand content. Charging for DVR or ad-free viewing would change the service’s identity and make it less appealing.

Is Pluto TV Worth It?

Yes. Obviously, yes. Unless you’re not willing to spend five minutes to get free entertainment, you’ve got nothing to lose. Pluto TV has an app for almost any mobile device or smart TV plus there’s browser version online. If you can read this article, you can afford Pluto TV.

While the content on the service may not be the newest, it is a legal way to relive many old favorites or some less recent movies. Yes, there are commercials, but the $0 price tag makes the ads barable. Plus, new content is continuously being added. Some channels may get repetitive, but then new channels come to add some variety.

What makes Pluto TV noteworthy is its unique structure. By this point some people may be spoiled by all the ad-free (though paid) streaming services. They may not like Pluto TV, but the service itself allows people accustomed to traditional cable to transition into the streaming world. I’m surprised it took so long for this style of service to gain major recognition, but now that it’s here, Pluto TV may be paving the path for other channel-based streaming services to arrive.

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Writer, educator, and a few other things.

San Diego, CA

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