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Published on January 25th, 2019 | by Brad Gibson


What the Viacom buyout of Pluto TV means for Apple TV users

The purchase of Pluto TV by the mass media conglomerate Viacom for $340 million is another example of how the landscape of TV and streaming media is evolving and changing. 

Viacom sees Pluto TV as a way to distribute the massive library of content it owns, add advertising to it, and create a new revenue stream off of what it already owns directed at consumers not wanting to pay a monthly fee for services like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.

If you’re not that familiar with Pluto TV, the model is simple…an ad-supported streaming service, which boasts of offering 100 channels and thousands of movies and TV shows. It’s a free collection of live channels with names you’ve heard of like CBS News, Cheddar, CNET, Bloomberg News, PeopleTV, together with hundreds of other channels made up of various genres.

Pluto TV is available as a standalone app on the Apple TV App Store at this link and has been available on Apple TV since February 2014.

In addition, Pluto TV has dozens of movie channels airing mostly older titles, available on demand, with commercials viewers can’t fast-forward through.

The concern of many is that Viacom will come and ruin Pluto TV turning it into a platform full of commercials or worse yet, a subscription service. There’s no evidence of either, especially the latter.

In an interview with Viacom’s CEO Bob Bakish on CNBC a few days ago, he gave no hints that it plans to come in and make drastic changes.

“This product appeals to that entry level (customer looking for the) free segment,” he commented. “And that’s a big market….This is a great product for value-conscious consumers.”

He confirmed Viacom plans to add a lot of its own advertisements, saying “we have a ton of (ads) to sell,” reiterating, “we see tremendous potential with this asset.”

Another good sign is the retention of Pluto TVs CEO and founder Tom Ryan who has set the direction of the company since its infancy. Ryan has stayed mum through the purchase, making no comment or even appearing in one interview.

What Apple TV users can probably expect to see is more channels focused on content from Viacom, which owns Paramount, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, BET, Comedy Central, and many other well-known names. Look for Viacom to take content from these companies and create channels of older content that wouldn’t interfere with existing packages sold through its own or third-party subscription services.

The good news for Apple TV users is that Pluto TV will probably become more valuable as an entertainment asset regardless if they are a hardcore cord cutter or not. There are other ad-supported entertainment network available to Apple TV streamers like Sony Crackle and Tubi, but neither of them is as big or popular as Pluto TV is now, even before the Viacom purchase.

At first glance, just days after the buyout’s announcement, indications are the deal will be good for streamers by offering more choice of free content. It remains to be seen to just what extent that will be.

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About the Author

Brad is co-founder and editor-in-chief of He has been a technology reporter since the late 1980s having previously worked for MacUser, MacFormat, and iCreate magazines, as well as,,,, and He hosted and produced the MacFormat This Week podcast for three years. He was also a reporter, editor, and producer for the AOL, the BBC, Associated Press, and United Press International.

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