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Pluto TV guide: app, channels, reviews and how to activate

Pluto TV
(Image credit: Pluto TV)

Are your streaming subscription fees out of control? Pluto TV is a free live TV streaming service — yes, free! The ad-supported service combines more than 250 live channels with on-demand shows and movies. If you're looking for more streaming content to watch at home right now, Pluto TV could be a great option that comes at no cost.

Owned by ViacomCBS, Pluto TV launched in 2014 and has grown quickly since. The service now has more than 22 million monthly active users in the U.S. It also operates in Europe and is launching in Latin America soon. Unlike live TV streaming services such as Sling TV Hulu with Live TV and YouTube TV, Pluto curates free content that's already available on the web.

Pluto TV is an "over-the-top" (OTT) service, which means it comes through the internet rather than on dedicated lines or over the air, like Netflix. 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 the new Sling Free

To use Pluto TV, you can stream 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 completely, totally 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, VH1, BET, TV Land and AMC, 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, 3rd Rock From the Sun, 21 Jump Street, American Chopper 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. 

  • iOS mobile & tablet
  • Android mobile & tablet 
  • Android TV (various)
  • Google Chromecast
  • Chrome Web App 
  • Amazon Kindle/Fire Tablets
  • Amazon Fire Tv + Fire Tv Stick
  • Roku Devices + Roku TV
  • Apple TV (4th Generation) 

How to activate Pluto TV 

You can activate your Pluto TV account to pair it with supported devices, to turn your phone into a remote control for Pluto. Those devices, currently, are Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV and PlayStation 4.

Here are the steps for activating your Pluto account on those devices.

  1. On your TV, visit Channel 02 in the Roku guide or click Activate on the left side of the guide.
  2. Get the 6 digit code from the top of the screen
  3. Then on your phone, if you're logged in to MyPluto
  4. Tap Activate
  5. Enter the code from step 2
  6. If you're not logged in visit My.Pluto.Tv/activate and follow the steps on screen

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?

Is Pluto TV worth it?

Since Pluto TV is free, your question may be, "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 may need to supplement Pluto TV with other streaming services.