For many people, one of the main goals of cutting the cord — i.e. dropping cable or satellite — is saving money. If you only subscribe to Netflix, that may actually work, but once you subscribe to all the services it takes to get your favorite shows and movies, you may not be paying a whole lot less than you were for their cable bill.
Of course, there are plenty of ways to skimp and save, but Pluto TV offers an enticing collection of more than 100 channels and thousands of free movies and TV shows for the low, low price of absolutely nothing. There has to be a catch, right? Actually, there isn’t, but Pluto TV differs from traditional live TV in a number of ways, so you might want to read on before you cancel cable.
What is Pluto TV?
Pluto TV is live TV streaming service, not entirely unlike Sling TV, and competitors like PlayStation Vue, DirecTV Now, and Hulu with Live TV or other similar services. But unlike those services, which offer streaming access to channels you’d find on cable TV, Pluto TV offers free content, mainly curated from what’s already available online. In this way, it’s similar to Rabbit TV, though that service costs $24 per year. The free streaming service launched in 2014, and picked up steam fairly quickly.
You’ll find content from channels you recognize as well as some you’ve likely never heard of — if you don’t watch a lot of online video, that is. Even those who already subscribe to a live TV streaming service may find the service useful thanks to the curated layout, though this will obviously depend on your personal preferences.
What channels are available?
Looking though the Pluto TV guide, channels are separated into similar groups. You’ll find some relatively standard categories like News, Sports, Movies, Entertainment, and Comedy. Others are more internet friendly, like the Chill Out, Life + Style, and Geek + Gaming sections. For the most part, you’re not going to find standard TV channels, though some are represented via their web counterparts, especially news outlets.
That includes familiar names like Bloomberg, Cheddar, CNBC, MSNBC, CBSN, The Weather Network, and a host of others. Sports coverage is less conventional — you’re not going to find the likes of ESPN here. Instead you’ll find choices like Fight, World Poker Tour, Impact Wrestling, a dedicated Sports News network, Glory Kickboxing, and the Big Sky Network.
In the Entertainment section are reruns of reality and documentary shows like alongside episodes of Dennis The Menace, Thunderbirds, and other older TV shows. Among those various channels, you’ll also find Fear Factor, a network that only shows reruns of the popular game show. Meanwhile, the Curiosity section features Science TV, Docu TV, Xive TV, and even a NASA livestream.
That type of hyper-focused network is par for the course with Pluto TV, which also features Stand Up — a channel dedicated only to stand up comedy, Anime All Day, and two separate channels dedicated to “fails.” Other similar channels include Slow TV, which shows relaxing imagery, Cats 24/7, and The Gorilla Channel. Yes, really.
The Chill Out, Life + Style, and Geek + Gaming sections rely more heavily on the web, offering up video that you’d normally have to browse to a website to find. In the Geek + Gaming channel you’ll find content from Nerdist and Geek and Sundry, among others, while the Life + Style section features celebrity gossip and beauty advice. Finally, with channel names like Vibe and THC, the Chill Out section seems to offer up content for people enjoying a substance that is currently only legal in select states.
A number of internet radio stations are also available, provided by Dash Radio, which is also available as a standalone service. More modern types of music like hip hop, electronic music, and pop are the most prevalent, though stations are also available featuring classic rock, soul, and jazz as well.
What devices can I use to watch?
If you’re reading this article, chances are near 100 percent than you own at least one device capable of streaming Pluto TV. The service can be streamed via web browser, but also offers desktop apps for both Windows and Mac computers, though they can only be used in the U.S. Mobile apps are also available for iOS and Android devices, with separate U.S. and International versions, which offer different channels due to issues with streaming rights.
If you’d rather watch on your TV, a number of devices including Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Android TV devices, and the PlayStation 4 offer Pluto TV apps. Smart TVs from Samsung, Sony, and Vizio are also supported, with the company’s website saying that more are on the way.
All of the apps we’ve tested display the same interface, with no significant differences between platforms, with one exception which we’ll get into below.
What about on demand content?
Pluto TV’s on-demand offering leans heavily on movies. A few TV shows are available, like Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, Paranormal State, and Paris Hilton’s My New BFF Dubai at the time of this writing, but the vast majority of what you’re going to find are movies.
The available content changes frequently, with the service promising new hit movies every week. While the company’s website shows movies like Barbershop, Vanilla Sky, and Legally Blonde, the recent additions when we were researching the service for this article included The Men Who Stare at Goats, Saw: The Final Chapter, and Benny and Joon. The ever-rotating selection makes it hard to predict, and it’s not on par with services like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video.
One thing to keep in mind about Pluto TV’s on-demand content: It may not be available on every platform. In our testing, it was available on most of the platforms we tested (Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, iOS, and Roku), but wasn’t available on the PlayStation 4. This could change in the near future, as it seems to be one of the most recently supported platforms — it’s not even listed on the Pluto TV website — but this could be the case on other platforms as well.
Will Pluto TV stick around?
At least at the time of this writing, it doesn’t seem like Pluto TV will be going anywhere. Unlike previous projects that aimed to provide shows you would otherwise need an antenna for, like Aereo for example, Pluto TV isn’t stepping on any toes that could irk either governments or cable and satellite companies.
While the company’s financial details aren’t readily available, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to run out of money any time soon either. Free though it may be, Pluto TV sells advertising on every channel, and judging from experience, it seems like advertisers are buying.
Is Pluto TV right for you? The easiest way to find out is to download one of the apps on your platform of choice or head to the company’s website and watch for a while. It won’t cost you anything but your time, and given the breadth of programming, chances are fairly good that you’ll find something you like.
If it turns out you’re looking for a more traditional TV experience over the internet, check out our comparison of the most popular services.
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