What Is Pluto TV and Is This Free Service Worth It?

Staff Writer

August 20 Update: This story has been updated per new content coming to Pluto TV, which is coming to Vizio Smart TVs.

There are so many streaming TV services, they're starting to name them after former planets. Take Pluto TV, for example, a free site that may not have heavy hitters, but tries to offer something for everyone.

Credit: Pluto TV/NBCCredit: Pluto TV/NBC

What is Pluto TV?

Pluto TV is an odd mish-mash of more than 75 free channels, and it doesn't require users to make an account. If you'd like, you can sign up with the service, so you can mark channels as favorites for easier viewing.

Pluto TV is actually free? How does that work?

Yep, Pluto doesn't charge uses a penny. It feels like the modernized version of the free channel package you'd get when you'd connect an antenna to a TV. The service features ads throughout your experience, often when changing channels. Ads can be intrusive when they unexpectedly interrupt the middle of a movie, and can range from one 30-second ad to up to four at a time.

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What can you watch on Pluto TV?

As long as you don't *need* every single brand you're used to tuning into, Pluto TV has something for you. Scrolling through the Pluto TV channel guide, you'll see a mix of familiar (Fox Sports, People TV) brands and those you won't recognize, such as WHAT?!, Man Up, Anime All Day and The Feed.

You don't get the broadcast channels, but you will get news channels based on their offerings. So, when you see CBSN, know that it's CBS News and won't give you Big Bang Theory. Similarly, the NBC News network doesn't have the sitcoms and dramas of that network. Fox and The CW are missing altogether.

If you want movies, Pluto's got genre-based channels such as Action Movies, Flicks of Fury, Horror 24/7, Gravitas Movies and Black Cinema. Looking at the actual films on these channels, I saw a bunch of stuff I've never heard of (Vendetta, Ninja and 247 Degrees Fahrenheit) but noticed that Pluto TV Movies 1 & 2 feature more-recognizable content, such as the award-winning drama There Will Be Blood and the satirical comedy Saved!.

Looking to learn? NASA TV provides a live stream from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. XiveTV streams "long-form, factual entertainment" including a documentary I sampled called "Wildest India: Thar Desert Sacred Sands." The Science TV and Docu TV channels also package similar content, such as "Let's Get Inventin" and "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations."

Chassy, a car-driven channel co-founded by radio and podcasting impressario Adam Carolla, will start revving its engines on Pluto TV starting August 21. Pluto TV has a one-hear exclusivity agreement with Chassy.

What about sports?

You won't be able to follow your favorite teams on Pluto. You can track day to day scores on Fox Sports, but you won't get ESPN. Poker fans may appreciate the World Poker Tour channel; Glory Kickboxing is here to satisfy the needs of bloodsport fans; and Pluto TV Sports is a series of documentaries on athletes. Other channels include Stadium, Sports News, Fight, and Impact! Wrestling.

Is Pluto's content live?

Yes and no. While select news and sports programming is live (and you'll see an icon indicating that), a lot of Pluto's channels repackage existing content by genre.

If you click on a film name in the channel guide, rather than its channel icon, you can start at the beginning. A Live button allows you to jump to the current moment.

Where can I watch Pluto TV?

You can watch Pluto your TV, thanks to its apps on Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast and Roku. Pluto TV is also accessible via the Google Play, iOS, Mac and Windows app stores, as well as on web browsers.

On August 1, Vizio added Pluto TV integration to its Smart TV sets, via an app called WatchFree. LG TVs feature a similar ad-driven television platform, Xumo.

You may not get every Pluto channel on certain connected set-top devices, so check here first to see what you can stream.

What about my smart TV?

Yep, Pluto TV is also available on select Vizio, Samsung and Sony smart TVs.

What's up with the on-demand content?

We noticed that you can't load on-demand programming via a web browser, but it is currently available via Smart TV apps and connected devices.

What's missing?

Aside from the programming you're used to? Pluto TV doesn't have the cloud-based DVR service that paid, premium streaming services offer.

Who is Pluto TV for?

If you're looking for a traditional TV-like experience, where you surf between channels instead of searching for a specific show, Pluto TV might be right for you. It's also best-suited to those who are just looking to watch something and don't have a specific show they need to see.