Pluto TV Unveils ‘Home’ Section Dedicated Hub

Free streaming TV service Pluto TV has announced a new section “Home,” designed to optimize ease-of-access, personalization and discovery in a dedicated hub.

Embedded in the global navigation panel, the hub brings together on-demand content and linear channels, in one unified destination. 

The Home section of Pluto TV is designed to streamline viewing preferences with personalization based on consumption habits. A myriad of carousels, populated with key art, will act as navigational tools allowing for deeper exploration and visibility into the wide array of programming available on the platform. Thematically organized, carousels will house suggested and editorially-curated content alongside recently watched, saved and favorited programming.

Returning users will be met with recommended programming while new users will have the opportunity to explore trending and curated suggestions. The more users watch, the more content surfaces within Home and the more personalized it becomes. And, unique to Pluto TV, both live and on-demand content can intermingle within the same carousel giving users even more options to browse and discover within a single experience, according to Pluto TV.

Featured carousels include:

  • Marquee — On-Demand and Linear programming
  • Editorially-Driven Curated
  • Personalized Recommendations
  • Trending Content
  •  Saved, Favorites & Recently Watched

 

“As the FAST landscape continues to evolve, so does our user experience around content discovery and personalization to seamlessly connect users to relevant programming,” Tad Ro, SVP of product management at Pluto TV, said in a statement. “The Home experience offers a unique display of rich sets of both Live and VOD content, even intermixing in the same carousels, and gives users more opportunity to find the content they are actively looking for, love to watch and soon-to-be new favorites within a single section.”

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The new Home section will debut as a phased rollout beginning on Sept. 25 on select Roku devices and continue with launches on Android TV and Fire TV devices throughout the remainder of the year.

FAST-Talking at NAB Show 2023: ‘We’re Linear Again’

LAS VEGAS — There’s no question that FAST — free, ad-supported television — is booming, with domestic revenues expected to triple to about $12 billion over the next three years.

But speakers on the NAB’s “FAST Channels and Furious Growth” panel discussion April 17 at the NAB show were divided on whether FAST is a new, modern replacement for cable television.

“I absolutely think it’s a replacement [for cable],” said Amy Kuessner, EVP of content strategy and global partnerships at Paramount Streaming, with direct responsibility for Pluto.

“I think everyone here sees the cable numbers every day, and they are dwindling,” she said. “And I used to be on the that side of the business. It’s similar in the fact that what’s old is new again — we’re linear again, it’s back in style, but it’s digital linear, and ad-supported. It’s the same in that we’re still programming niche channels, which is what cable did so well, but it’s different in that it’s not Cable 2.0. It’s becoming this whole ‘must carry’ thing; it’s cable without borders, so it’s very different in the marketplace approach.”

Philippe Guelton, chief revenue officer of Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, took an opposing stance.

“I don’t think FAST is the new cable at all,” he said. “And the reason is when you cut the cord, when you cut cable, you lost a lot more than what’s available on FAST today. Think about the premium channels — the HBOs, the Showtimes. This where the actual investment was taking place in cable, and now that is happening on SVOD, for the most part — this is where a lot of that content lives.

“And then you have the broadcast content, the bigger and more general entertainment channels on cable, which have become really the AVOD experience. Movie-watching on FAST is not the ideal situation. VOD is the best experience for consumers to watch movies.

“So what, then, is FAST? I think it’s almost equivalent to syndicated television. This is where all that content goes after it’s gone through all those other windows. It’s almost like syndicated television on steroids, in a way, because there’s so much more [content].

“So, I think you really have to look at the entire ecosystem — FAST, AVOD, SVOD and TVOD — to really replace cable for the consumer.”

Jim Packer, president of worldwide television distribution at Lionsgate, agreed.

“We lost 7 million homes in the MVPD ecosystems last year,” Packer said. “Where they all went is part of the fascination of what we do. Some people have SVOD and SVOD is starting to bundle, so you have that dynamic. You’ve got somebody who buys a Samsung TV and may not even be aware of FAST, then discovers it for the first time. I think that one of the things that makes it a little bit tricky for FAST, and that over time I hope will continue to improve, is that each of the platforms looks a lot different and is a little bit less consistent than the MVPD ecosystem.

“So I think it [FAST] is happening, and it is part of the transition, but everybody’s competing for those 7 million people.”

Adam Lewinson, chief content officer of Tubi, maintains there’s room for different business models as audiences continue to migrate from cable to Internet-based services.

“Tubi is predominantly a video-on-demand platform,” he said, “and our vision of the future is that the future of streaming television is going to be predominantly on demand. Having said that, we still have 200 FAST channels, leaning heavily into news and sports. There’s always going to be a demand for live.”

Asked which demographics are driving the growth of FAST, Kuessner said that at Pluto, “We tremendously over indexed in Hispanic and African-American audiences. I want to say that the general market for African-American television viewing is 20%; we’re at 30%. And because of that, we were one of the first platforms — 2019, I want to say — to roll out an entire Hispanic offering with over 50 channels. And then we do have channels that are more targeted to African-Americans, whether it’s Black cinema or classics. Those channels are what I call our power channels, and they were just off the charts in terms of performance.”

Tubi’s Lewinson said half of his company’s viewers identify as multicultural. “We’re also one of the younger streamers, so a little over a third of our audience is in that coveted 18-34 demo. And what’s really interesting, and probably one of the reasons why we’re still very heavily a video-on-demand platform as opposed to these FAST channels, is that so much of our audience grew up on YouTube or Netflix and they like the on-demand, they like our personalization tools, they’re used to navigating the algorithms, and the linear environment is just not the best experience for certain kinds of content. If you’re going to watch a movie, you’re probably going to want to watch it from the beginning.

“So what we find is that the viewers who are leaning more heavily into these FAST channels tend to skew older, and I think a lot of that is just transitional — the electronic program guides, not everyone grew up with that, but for [older viewers] it just feels comfortable — ‘Oh, this feels like my cable box.'”

‘Rocky,’ ‘Sailor Moon’ Channels Among Content Headed to Pluto TV in March

Free streaming TV service Pluto TV has announced new channels and programming coming to the service in March, including channels with “Rocky” movies and “Sailor Moon” content.

On March 1, the Hollywood movie franchise “Rocky” will enter the Pluto TV programming ring with a new, limited-run channel — Pluto TV Rocky. The channel will stream the “Rocky Collection,” featuring Rocky (1976), Rocky II (1979), Rocky III (1982), Rocky IV (1985), Rocky V (1990) and Rocky Balboa (2006).

Beginning every Wednesday in March, Pluto TV will be highlighting WOW — Women of Wrestling with the new season one reboot episodes and two docuseries, “My Road to WOW — The Secrets of the Superheroes” and “The Origin of WOW — Women of Wrestling,” coming later this month. To celebrate, wrestlers from WOW — Women of Wrestling will join Pluto TV’s Stream-Along on social media every Wednesday in March where they will share insights and special behind-the-scenes commentary.

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The classic anime television show “Sailor Moon,” based on the manga originally launched in the 1990s, will also be joining the Pluto TV lineup in March. The Sailor Moon channel will provide viewers access to hundreds of hours and episodes, including all 200 episodes of “The Pretty Guardians Sailor Moon,” all episodes of “The Pretty Guardians Sailor Moon Crystal,” and The Pretty Guardians Sailor Moon R: The Movie, The Pretty Guardians Sailor Moon S: The Movie and The Pretty Guardians Sailor Moon Super S: The Movie.

Season 13 of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” will stream exclusively on Pluto TV on the MST3K channel, and all seven seasons of “Star Trek: Voyager” will land on Pluto TV’s dedicated Star Trek channel, More Star Trek.

Also in March, Pluto TV is adding 2,000 on-demand episodes from CBS and Paramount Media Networks series. Select seasons will be available from shows including “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” “The Challenge,” “The Hills,” “Key & Peele,” “Bar Rescue,” “Nathan for You,” “Judge Judy” and more.  This latest installment follows the 6000-plus CBS episodes added to Pluto TV’s VOD section late last year.

Paramount+ Posts Big Sub Gain as ViacomCBS Rebrands to Paramount

ViacomCBS during a Feb. 15 investor event announced its streaming service, Paramount+, added 7.3 million subscribers in the fourth quarter (ended Dec. 31) to bring its total sub count to 32.8 million.

The media company also announced a name change to Paramount Global, “or, more simply, Paramount,” according to a memo to employees from  CEO Bob Bakish and non-executive chair Shari Redstone.

Bob Bakish

The name change takes effect Feb. 16 and comes “one year since the spectacular launch of Paramount+ and two years since the successful merger of Viacom and CBS,” according to the memo. “In that time, we have shown the world what we knew from the start: that together, aligned around a shared vision and shared strategy, we create a whole that is far greater than the sum of its parts.”

ViacomCBS executives attributed the Paramount+ streaming gain to Clifford the Big Red Dog, the live-action family film that debuted on Paramount+ the same day it opened in theaters, as well as original films Mayor of Kingstown, the “Yellowstone” prequel “1883” and South Park: Post-COVID. Execs also credited live events, NFL football games and bundling discounts.

Showtime also gained 2.1 million streaming subscribers to boost ViacomCBS’s total combined sub gain to 9.4 million, for a new total of 56 million.

Pluto TV, the company’s free, ad-supported streaming service, posted a 45% revenue gain to $362 million, while its monthly active user base rose by 10 million to more than 64 million.

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In a financial report, ViacomCBS said total company revenue increased 16% year-over-year in the fourth quarter to $8 billion, “reflecting growth across all revenue types.” Quarterly global streaming revenue was up 48% year-over-year to $1.3 billion, a gain the company attributes to subscription growth and a spike in advertising sales.

Profits, however, were down, with adjusted earnings of $557 million compared with $1.18 billion in the fourth quarter of 2020.  

“For more than a century, the name Paramount has been synonymous with great entertainment and industry leadership,” Bakish and Redstone wrote in the memo. “It’s part of our history, as pioneers of the Golden Age of Hollywood. But as Paramount+ has made clear, it’s also about our bright future. And, not least, it’s an idea: a promise to be the best. 

“As Paramount, our name will reflect who we are, what we aspire to be, and all that we stand for. It will help advance our strategy of harnessing all our strength and breadth in building the businesses of tomorrow. And it will capture the collective power of our global assets, from our amazing brands — CBS, Showtime, MTV, Comedy Central, BET, Nickelodeon, Smithsonian, Paramount Pictures, Paramount+, Pluto TV and more — to our global reach and our diverse audiences. All of which adds up to Paramount being the preeminent home to, and producers of, the world’s greatest content.”

Pluto TV Streaming Classic CBS Series for Winter Holidays

Heading into the Thanksgiving holiday, ViacomCBS-owned ad-supported VOD service Pluto TV will begin streaming classic CBS television series as branded channels. They include: “Happy Days,” “Family Ties,” “The Love Boat,” “Wings,” “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Mission: Impossible,” “Laverne & Shirley” and “Mork & Mindy.”

All of Pluto TV’s new channels will stream for free beginning Nov. 24. Channel line-ups include:

“Happy Days”: Features three classic sitcoms created by the late Garry Marshall. “Happy Days” (11 seasons), “Laverne & Shirley” (8 seasons), and “Mork & Mindy” (4 seasons).

“Wings”: Showcases Tim Daly, Steven Weber, Crystal Bernard, Thomas Haden Church, and Tony Shaloub in eight seasons of the sitcom from the creators of “Cheers.”

“Family Ties”: The Emmy-winning seven-season sitcom launched Michael J. Fox, and also stars Meredith Baxter, Michael Gross, Justine Bateman, and Tina Yothers.

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“The Love Boat”: Finds the crew of the S.S. Pacific Princess and their all-star passengers 24 hours a day for nine seasons.

“Beverly Hillbillies”: The original fish-out-of-water sitcom showcasing characters Jed, Granny, Jethro, and Elly May over nine seasons.

“Mission: Impossible”: The original 1960s spy thriller series starring Peter Graves, Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, Greg Morris, Peter Lupus, and Leonard Nimoy, among others, over seven seasons.

Separately, Pluto TV is making a donation to World Central Kitchen to support of ongoing efforts to use the power of food to heal communities and strengthen economies during times of crisis and beyond.

Throughout the holiday season, to drive even greater awareness to this noteworthy cause and amplify the efforts for World Central Kitchen, Pluto TV’s social media will feature curated holiday recipes inspired these shows and favorite recipes from beloved stars of the series.

Pluto TV has a global audience of over 36 million monthly active users, with over 28.4 million in the U.S. Pluto TV has an international footprint that spans across three continents and 25 countries throughout the U.S., Europe and Latin America.

‘The Carol Burnett Show’ Headed for Pluto TV

Shout! Factory TV on Sept. 1 announced the launch of “The Carol Burnett Show” channel on Pluto TV, a free ad-supported television streaming service.

The 24/7 linear channel presents episodes from all 11 seasons and can be viewed on Channel 516 in Pluto TV’s newly-launched Classic TV section, available on all leading digital streaming devices and services, as well as major smart TVs and gaming consoles.

Additionally, fans looking to stream content on demand can stream episodes on Pluto TV and Shout! Factory TV.

Many of the episodes included in the linear streaming release have been rarely seen since the show’s original broadcast more than 40 years ago. The comedy legend worked with Shout! Factory to find the long-lost masters of these episodes for their on-demand streaming debut on Shout! Factory TV.

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Content ranges from season one’s first “Carol & Sis” sketches, with a teenage Vicki Lawrence playing a character based on Carol Burnett’s real-life sister, and “As The Stomach Turns,” a soap opera parody which ran for all 11 seasons, to the evolution of Tim Conway’s “Oldest Man” character, which he introduced in Season two and performed nearly 20 times over the course of the series.

“I am so thrilled about the launch of the new ‘Carol Burnett Show’ channel on Pluto TV,” said Carol Burnett in a press release. “When the show started in the 1960s, there were only three or four channels to watch and now there are hundreds on Pluto TV alone. I can’t wait for new fans to discover the show and see how the comedy holds up today.”

Pluto TV Adds News, Entertainment Channels

Viacom-owned AVOD service Pluto TV and CBS Interactive announced three additional channels launched Nov. 13 on the free streaming service.

Pluto TV viewers now have access to live news, updates, analysis and reporting from the entertainment news brand ET Live and live local news streams from CBSN New York and CBSN Los Angeles.

The new additions join existing CBS Interactive properties and longstanding Pluto TV media partners CBSN and CNET.

“CBS Interactive has long been an integral partner for Pluto TV. We are excited to continue to grow this relationship and extend new value to the Pluto TV audience together,” Jeff Shultz, EVP and chief business officer, Pluto TV, said in a statement.

“In addition to our previously launched CBSN and CNET channels on Pluto TV, we’re thrilled to be bringing more of our ad-supported streaming channels to the platform with today’s launch of our entertainment news channel, ET Live, and CBSN’s local news channels for New York and Los Angeles,” Sarah Jeon, EVP of business development, CBS Interactive, said in a statement.

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ET Live (channel 120) is a 24-hour streaming network dedicated to all things entertainment, tapping into the legacy of “Entertainment Tonight’s” brand.

CBSN New York (channel 237) was the first of CBS’s local direct-to-consumer streaming news services in major markets across the country. CBSN New York features live streams of WCBS and WLNY’s regularly scheduled newscasts and additional weekday one-hour newscasts at 7 a.m., 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. In addition, CBSN New York provides live continuous coverage of breaking news events with programming led by WCBS and WLNY anchors and reporters as well as an extensive library of local news content that will be available for on-demand viewing.

CBSN Los Angeles (channel 238) features 24-hour anchored programming, coverage of live breaking news events in the region as well as an extensive library of local news content that will be available for on-demand viewing. CBSN Los Angeles’ daily lineup includes live streams of KCBS (CBS 2) and KCAL (KCAL 9), regularly scheduled newscasts and additional weekday one-hour newscasts at 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. CBSN Los Angeles programming is led by CBS 2 and KCAL 9 anchors and reporters.

The new programming and channel collaboration with CBS Interactive joins Pluto TV’s more than 200 live, linear, curated channels and thousands of movies on demand from major studios, networks, publishers and digital media companies.

Roku CEO: We Are the No. 1 Smart TV Operating System in the U.S.

Roku said 33% of all Internet-connected “smart” televisions sold domestically in the first quarter (ended March 31) featured its branded operating system. That’s up from 25% of all TVs sold in 2018.

“In less than five years, the Roku TV has gone from a disruptive idea to the market leader,” founder/CEO Anthony Wood said on the fiscal call. “We have taken the leads from Samsung and are now the number one smart TV OS in the country.”

Anthony Wood

Wood attributed Roku’s transition from streaming media device manufacturer to ad-supported VOD distributor to ongoing consumer moves away from linear TV toward over-the-top video — and the CE industry’s sluggish efforts to develop “homegrown” software OS platforms in televisions.

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“We really think in almost all cases those [OS] solutions are probably uncompetitive and that we will just continue to see gains and share of licensed OS [platforms],” Wood said. “So there is a lot of room to grow. It’s a big opportunity.”

Meanwhile, Roku continues to drive an expanding AVOD market through its branded Roku channel. The AVOD market gained momentum following Viacom’s acquisition of Pluto TV, Comcast’s planned launch of AVOD distribution, Shout! Factory’s Shout TV, Sony Crackle and San Francisco-based Tubi, among others.

“We are excited about the increased investment and focus by major media companies on bringing free content over-the-top,” said Scott Rosenberg, GM, platform business. “When they do this, they ultimately accelerate the consumer move into OTT and expand the economic pie for all of us. We share in their success.”

Indeed, Roku said user accounts increased 40% to 29.1 million from 20.8 million last year. Consumer streaming hours increased 74% to 8.9 billion hours compared to 5.1 billion hours in the previous-year period.

“The most exciting thing about the Viacom/Pluto tie-up is the fact that Viacom is taking content that was previously only available through pay-TV subscriptions and making it available free through AVOD services,” he said. “That not only will that drive viewing on the platform, I think it will also help accelerate the shift of ad dollars over to streaming.”

Research: OTT Revenue Forecast to Reach $22 Billion in 2019

Based on 66 OTT providers, led by Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, U.S. OTT access revenue grew 37% to $16.3 billion in 2018 and is forecast to reach $22 billion in 2019, according to a new research from Convergence Research.

The research firm has released two new reports, “The Battle for the American Couch Potato: OTT and TV” and “The Battle for the American Couch Potato: Bundling, TV, Internet, Telephone, Wireless.”

Still, U.S. TV subscriber average revenue per user (ARPU) is still forecast to be three times U.S. OTT subscriber household ARPU in 2021.

The firm estimates 2018 U.S. cable, satellite, telco TV access (not including OTT) revenue declined 3% to $103.4 billion in 2018 and forecasts 2019 will see a similar decline. Also, 2018 saw a decline of 4.01 million U.S. TV subscribers and 2017 a decline of 3.66 million, according to the firm, which forecasts a decline of 4.56 million TV subs for 2019. The U.S. TV subscriber
base will decline 5% in 2019, from a decline of 4% in 2018, according to the firm’s estimates.

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By the end of 2018, the firm estimates 30% of households did not have a traditional TV subscription with a cable, satellite, or telco TV access provider, up from 26% at the end of 2017. The firm forecasts that number to reach 34% of households by the end of 2019. Convergence Research estimates 2018 saw almost 5 million cord cutter/never household additions.

The firm projects that a number of OTT plays, including large and niche, will fail due to insufficient subscriber traction, cost and competition, noting major programmers continue to accelerate their direct-to-consumer drive, including Disney and WarnerMedia. Other developments noted by the firm include:

  • Hulu spends more on content per sub than either Amazon or Netflix and continues to discount (notably with Spotify);
  • CBS/Showtime’s OTT subscriber trajectory has been faster than expected;
  • Discovery has backed and supplied Philo, gone live with Hulu, Sling and YouTube TV, and will be launching an OTT service with the BBC;
  • NBC Universal will be launching an OTT service in 2020;
  • and Viacom has backed and supplied Philo and others, acquired Pluto and Awesomeness TV and is producing for Amazon and Netflix.