Should Broadcast TV Pay Close Attention To Pluto TV?


As 2017 comes to a close, the number of over-the-top (OTT) players seeking to pull viewers away from MVPDs and, in some cases, broadcast TV may be too numerous to summarize in one simple sentence.

The OTT space is mushrooming, but not without notice from some big global entities. That’s why broadcast TV station owners and program distributors may wish to monitor what becomes of Pluto TV. 

The OTT just received $5 million in funding from Samsung Venture Investment Corporation, the venture capital arm of the Samsung Group. Participation from other investors totaling $8.3 million.

According to L.A.-based Pluto TV, the funding will be used to further expand the OTT service’s product, content and marketing efforts.

“Samsung is the global leader in the TV market, changing the way people experience entertainment through constant innovation,” said CEO Tom Ryan. “Their investment in Pluto TV is a great vote of confidence in our mission to bring free Internet television to consumers everywhere.”

Samsung’s Jihong Kim added that it sees “huge potential for the company as they scale their cutting edge offering to viewers around the world.”

What is Pluto TV? At present, it boasts a 24/7 channel with content from MSNBC and NBC News; CBS Corp.’s all-news CBSN, Bloomberg Television, London-based SkyNews, OTT darling Cheddar, and collegiate sports from the BigSky Conference.

There are two sides to Pluto TV’s business model: While it operates like a virtual MVPD through content aggregation, it also likens itself to a network TV group as it seeks to create and curate more channels. It has agreements with Warner Bros, MGM, and Lionsgate, and also offers such OTT fare as People TV, Popsugar, and LittleThings.

And, it’s offering its service at no cost, viewable across platforms including Roku and Amazon Fire, and on all iOS and Android-powered devices.

Should companies such as Gray Television, Raycom, Graham Media or Nexstar be concerned?

Perhaps not. Pluto TV says it “completes the TV watching experience” by providing content neither available to MVPD subscribers nor to those with “skinny bundle services” or subscription video on demand (SVOD) services.

But, stations that share their local programming via an app or through the NewsOn platform may want to look at how Pluto TV is poised to grow: As Samsung makes phones and TVs, integration of Pluto TV across all devices could make it bigger than any other OTT service very soon.

Pluto TV viewers have access to 24/7 channels such as RT (formerly Russia Today), Canada’s The Weather Network, and NASA TV. These channels are joined with Pluto-formulated movie channels.

That’s before the funding from Samsung.

Meanwhile, there are music offerings on Pluto TV. That could be significant: Along with CEO Ryan is Pluto TV Executive Chairman Ken Parks—the former chief content officer at Spotify.

Other investors in Pluto TV include Germany’s ProSiebenSat.1 Media, Scripps Networks Interactive, Sky, and United Talent Agency.