Skip to main content

Pluto.tv aims to make YouTube work like old-school TV

pluto tv edit
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Video curation services are positioned to be a powerful new tool in the expanding realm of online video. A few companies are already making a go at categorizing the frustratingly scattered mosaic of content that is Youtube, including an intriguing set-top box from the cofounders of TiVo, called Qplay. Now, Pluto.tv is making a play at cleaning up the video landscape, offering up to 100 organized ‘channels’ on its site with an aim to make perusing online videos more like old school TV.

Like Qplay, and even Mohu’s Channel device, which organizes websites and over-the-air TV alongside streaming apps, Pluto.tv has unabashedly employed an interface that’s extremely similar to the program guide viewers are used to seeing on standard cable TV. If it ain’t broke, well, you know.

As reported by the New York Times, Pluto.tv’s familiar sprawl of channels source video from around the web into categories like sports, news, comedy, etc. and organizes them into 30 minute ‘programs.’ There are specialty channels for music videos such as a top 40 channel, and even one called “Happy,” that (no joke) shows a 24 hour stream of the Pharell Williams video of the same name. 

Users can navigate through the guide both vertically and horizontally from their PC or mobile device to select content at their leisure, with pause/play, fast forward, and rewind controls that are extremely similar to a DVR. The site also incorporates a social media aspect in the right hand corner for chatting with friends.

Interestingly, Pluto.tv actually employs real live human curators to set up the channels. As Pluto.tv co-founder Nick Grouf told the Times, “We have people who are literally sitting and watching videos all day to decide what goes into the channels.” Not exactly state-of-the-art technology, but for now, it might help give the service an edge over others that employ algorithms for curation, potentially providing richer, better organized content.

While the $50 Qplay set-top box has an advantage over Pluto.tv with its direct connection to the big screen, Pluto.tv has its own advantage: the service is completely free, requiring no proprietary equipment to watch. And with the ability to download Pluto.tv apps to Android and iOS devices, viewers are just a short step away from sending content to their flat screen via an Apple TV, or other mirroring device.

Check out the service for yourself, and let us know how Pluto.tv measures up in the comments below.

Ryan Waniata
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Ryan Waniata is a multi-year veteran of the digital media industry, a lover of all things tech, audio, and TV, and a…
Sling TV versus YouTube TV
Sling TV guide on an iPhone.

The Sling TV guide as seen on an iPhone. Phil Nickinson / Digital Trends

YouTube TV is the most popular live-streaming service in the U.S., with more than 8 million subscribers. Sling TV has about one-quarter of that. But it's still worth looking at the latter against the former because it does things a little differently.

Read more
What is YouTube Music? Everything you need to know
iPhone 15 Pro Max showing the YouTube Music app.

YouTube is one of the most popular online destinations for video, but it's also one of the premier places in the world to find music. It's no surprise, then, that Google went and rolled all that music content out into a dedicated music app called YouTube Music. The app offers music and podcasts and has free and premium versions.

If you're wondering how YouTube Music compares to other music streaming services like Spotify, Tidal, or Apple Music, it really depends on how frequently you rely on YouTube to search for music and how important music videos are to you. In this article, we'll give you all the information you need to make an informed decision.
The basics

Read more
YouTube TV just got even better on iPhones and iPads
Multiview on YouTube TV on an iPad.

If you use the most popular live-streaming service on an iPhone or iPad, things just got even better. YouTube TV — which boasts more than 8 million subscribers — just pushed multiview live on Apple's mobile devices, as previously promised.

It works basically the same way it does on a television. YouTube TV picks the programs available in multiview, and you get them all at once, with audio coming from one of the shows. Tap another, and the audio switches. And just as before, you can get multiview for sports, news, business, or weather. (Though we definitely don't recommend watching four news channels at once in an election year.) It's just in time for March Madness, which is great, though we hope you'll be able to pick your own games instead of just sticking with the multiple viewing options YouTube TV gives. This will be great come fall, though, when the new season of NFL Sunday Ticket takes hold.

Read more