Pluto TV: App, channels, guide and how to activate

Pluto TV
(Image credit: Pluto TV)

Pluto TV is one of several FAST streaming options. What is FAST, you ask? FAST stands for free ad-supported streaming television. 

Yes, that's right. Pluto TV is totally free. In fact, it's one of the best free streaming services out there. With your traditional streaming services getting more and more expensive after a series of price hikes, people are opting more often for these free alternatives to save some money.

While there are some drawbacks — you typically miss out on the latest hit shows and movies, though Amazon Prime Video's Freevee does make original content — there are some positives too. Pluto TV and other free streaming services give you hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of free TV and movies.

That's one area where Pluto TV really excels. It's owned by Paramount, so you get access to thousands of episodes from iconic shows like Cheers, Frasier, and Star Trek, in addition to Paramount Studios' deep content library of movies. You can also watch from a ton of places around the globe, as Pluto TV currently operates in the U.S., as well as parts of Europe (including the Nordics), Latin America, and Brazil.

In short, Pluto TV is a great way to cut the cord for free. So with that all said, here's everything you need to know about the Pluto TV free live TV streaming service.

What is Pluto TV?

Pluto TV is an "over-the-top" (OTT) service, which means it comes through the internet (like Netflix) rather than on dedicated lines or over the air. It's also an advertiser-supported video on demand service (or AVOD). That puts it in the same bucket as streaming services like Crackle, Tubi and Sling Free

To use Pluto TV, you can stream it on the Pluto website or download the app to any of the many devices supported by the service. 

So, what makes Pluto TV one of the best free streaming services? Read more below.

Pluto TV free package (with ads)

Yes, seriously: Pluto TV is absolutely free. You don't even need to register with an email address and you don't have to input any credit card information. Just fire up Pluto's website or the app, and you can start watching shows and movies immediately.

You can opt to register for a Pluto TV account, which gives you special features like the ability to designate favorite channels and resume watching a program on a different device.

This is all made possible by Pluto airing commercials during shows. Generally, the experience is similar to watching cable TV. A half-hour show typically has about four commercial breaks, with each break consisting of several 20-30 second ads.

Pluto TV channels and shows

Pluto TV's channels are divided into sections such as Featured, Entertainment, Movies, Sports, Comedy, Kids, Latino and Tech + Geek. 

There are versions of top cable networks like MTV but generally, Pluto TV channels aren't the ones you'd find in a standard cable or satellite package. 

The News channels are names that you know — CNN, NBC News, CBS News, etc. — but mostly, they play curated, pre-recorded clips instead of a live stream of the network. 

Similarly, the Sports channels are ones you've heard of, like Fox Sports, NFL Channel, PGA Tour and Major League Soccer. However, you can't really watch live sports on Pluto; those channels play past games, highlights or analysis.  

Pluto's TV shows are mostly older sitcoms and reality shows that are generally found on other free streaming services, like Hell's Kitchen, Roseanne and The First 48.

Pluto TV sports channels

(Image credit: Pluto TV)

Pluto TV app and supported devices

The Pluto TV app is available on devices including web browsers as well as many major smart TVs, smartphones and streaming boxes and sticks. 

  • Android mobile and tablet 
  • Apple iPhone and iPad
  • Apple TV (4th Generation) 
  • Amazon Kindle/Fire Tablets
  • Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick
  • Roku devices and Roku TVs
  • Google Chromecast
  • TiVo Stream 4K
  • Android TV (various)
  • web browsers

Pluto TV reviews

While there aren't a ton of Pluto TV reviews out there, the ones that exist are mostly positive about the free TV streaming service.

PC Mag says, "Pluto TV is a potentially viable solution for people who don't want to completely close the door on cable, but more importantly, don't want to pay for the privilege." Their review cautions potential users, "Anyone looking for a viable replacement to cable with an internet-based live TV service may be underwhelmed by Pluto TV." They think the service could use a bit of a redesign, too, saying, "Pluto TV needs to polish its interfaces and channel guides. The omission of DVR features is notable too, but not surprising given that it is free."

Clark.com says, "If you have decided that you’re going to quit paying for cable TV and subscription streaming services, I think Pluto TV needs serious consideration as a part of your free streaming content mix. There is a strong selection of cable-worthy content on this platform and the barrier to giving it a trial run is extremely low."

Pluto TV movies on demand

Yes, Pluto has thousands of movies on-demand and airing live on themed Movies channels, ranging from genres (Drama, Romance, Horror) to '80s Rewind and Black Cinema.  

Pluto TV movies made up of older titles that were moderate hits back in their day. Recent selections included Shaft, Addams Family Values, The Rainmaker, Airplane, Clue, Road to Perdition and First Wives Club.

Pluto TV on demand

(Image credit: Pluto TV)

Pluto TV internet speed requirements

Pluto TV doesn't provide specific guidelines about internet speed for its service. In its help section, the company says, "Having a fast connection (faster than 5mb) is certainly important, but having a 'stable' connection can be just as important, so that super fast WiFi connection drops out for a 1/2 second and that will cause playback issues."

MORE: How Much Internet Speed Should You Really Pay For?

Can Pluto TV replace cable?

You may be wondering, "Can I use Pluto TV to replace cable?" The answer is: Sort of. Pluto TV provides some programming you may enjoy, if you're satisfied with older movies and shows. But if you want a true cable TV replacement, you will need to supplement Pluto TV with other streaming services.

Malcolm McMillan
Senior Streaming Writer

Malcolm McMillan is a senior writer for Tom's Guide, covering all the latest in streaming TV shows and movies. That means news, analysis, recommendations, reviews and more for just about anything you can watch, including sports! If it can be seen on a screen, he can write about it. Previously, Malcolm had been a staff writer for Tom's Guide for over a year, with a focus on artificial intelligence (AI), A/V tech and VR headsets.

Before writing for Tom's Guide, Malcolm worked as a fantasy football analyst writing for several sites and also had a brief stint working for Microsoft selling laptops, Xbox products and even the ill-fated Windows phone. He is passionate about video games and sports, though both cause him to yell at the TV frequently. He proudly sports many tattoos, including an Arsenal tattoo, in honor of the team that causes him to yell at the TV the most.