Pluto TV, a free streaming service, may have floated under your radar. This past Monday, as part of its push into the streaming space, the newly formed ViacomCBS announced a major upgrade to the ad-supported media platform.
Starting immediately, not only would the platform get a major visual and interface improvement, it would also serve as the first level in a three-tier plan for ViacomCBS, as it further integrates its own content into the mainstream (such as featuring the airing of past seasons of CBS owned shows prior to their return for current storylines). And, it’s with this upgrade that ViacomCBS has shown not only its commitment to the platform but also why ad-supported streaming is worth investing in.
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Ten years ago, the idea of ad-supported streaming seemed insane, even if the platform offering the content wasn’t being offered for a monthly subscription price. However, as the streaming industry ages, so does its audience’s desire to not be $7.99'd to death. In addition, many of these platforms have succumbed to the unique problem of too much content to pick from, which often cripples the user experience as subscribers end up scrolling for something to watch nearly as long as they do actually watching something.
It’s this very problem that led NBCUniversal to integrate the Pluto business model into the upcoming Peacock platform (which will also start at a base price of free with ads) because if you’re going to steal something, steal from the best.
What Pluto is doing — by offering live, 24/7 streaming on a platform mostly fueled by third-party providers — mirrors the early days of basic cable, which was essentially a combination of the old-school rerun syndication system with the concept of magazines. A concept based on programming for a niche audience committed to staying on the channel for as long as possible. Pluto is this business model taken to the extreme and digitized.
Having Pluto as a consumer choice was never something to be scoffed at, but embraced. It’s taking what was once a radical idea for television and making it radical once again. It’s solving a variety of problems faced by the streaming landscape all while asking nothing of viewers but their time. And, now that ViacomCBS is pumping some serious R&D into the system, it’s clear they’ve figured that out too.
Additionally, Pluto offers a chance to broaden the spectrum of what people watch. There are movies, there are 24/7 marathon channels for shows like Fear Factor and Leverage, but there are also stand-up comedy and real-time gameplay offerings. Pluto has something for everyone and the new user interface offers a much greater chance that the random person watching a non-stop run of fail videos could stumble their way into a gameplay channel or airing of Goldfinger on the platform’s 24/7 James Bond channel that will exist through April.
Which brings us to the final point. The lean into Pluto by ViacomCBS will allow the company to bridge some of the streaming world’s most prevalent gaps. If the service is going to operate more like a cable network than a premium streamer, there’s no reason it should limit itself to just in-house programming. It will start looking for other types of shows it can program in that will help broaden everyone’s taste overall - which only serves to better the audience as a whole.
Who’s to say that, in a few months, there isn’t a channel dedicated to the likes of Fox’s Prodigal Son or The CW’s Arrow franchise. Programming is programming and the broader it gets for audiences, the better a time everyone will have in the long run.
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