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What is Pluto TV? The free streaming TV service explained

Key Takeaways

  • Pluto TV is a free streaming service with over 200 channels, but it operates like a traditional broadcast network with pre-scheduled programming.
  • The content on Pluto TV is programmed by humans, not algorithms, which can offer a more unique viewing experience.
  • While Pluto TV offers some on-demand content, it has a more limited selection compared to other streaming services.

To put it mildly, there are a lot of streaming services out there right now. The big names, like Netflix, Hulu and Max, get most of the publicity. But on the margins, there are alternative services that are more than worth your time. One that you might not have sampled is Pluto TV, and we’re here to give you a rundown on whether you should give it a shot.


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The good news up front: Pluto TV is completely free, supported by ads, so you don’t have to spend a penny to try it out. And te Pluto TV app is accessible on various devices including smartphones, tablets, popular browsers, streaming devices, and smart TVs. Here’s everything you need to know before you install the app.

What is Pluto TV The free streaming TV service explained photo 1
Pluto TV

What is Pluto TV?

Founded in 2013 by entrepreneur Nick Grouf, Pluto TV leveraged his background in creating recommendation engines to build a streaming platform. It originally sourced content from other services like Vimeo and YouTube, along with partnerships with content providers like Funny or Die and RocketJump. Upon acquisition by Viacom in 2019, Pluto TV pivoted to a way for that company to stream video from their numerous brands including Paramount, Nickelodeon, MTV and more.

What makes Pluto TV different from streaming services like Netflix and Hulu is that its programming is not “on demand” – you can’t just pick a show and binge watch it. Instead, it operates like a traditional broadcast or cable network, with each of its over 200 “channels” delivering a pre-scheduled selection of programming. This will definitely be a flashback for people who remember the old days, but might bug younger consumers used to being able to get what they want when they want it.

Pluto’s offerings vary by location. Customers in the United States have access to over 200 different channels, while due to licensing rights other areas get far fewer. These channels cover just about every niche of content, from news networks like CNN and Court TV, sports including a dedicated NFL channel, and even more niche offerings like a 24/7 Cats channel.

How to access Pluto TV: Which devices support it?

Pluto TV is available through a smart TV or set-top-box app, as well as on iOS and Android devices from their app stores. You can also watch it in a Web browser with no additional downloading. Accessibility is dependent on region, but Pluto TV apps are generally available for the following devices:

  • Android devices
  • Apple iOs and iPadOS devices
  • Android TV,
  • Apple TV,
  • Amazon Fire TV
  • Roku TVs and streaming boxes
  • Cox Contour Stream Player
  • Vizio SmartCast
  • Meta Quest VR devices
  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation 5
  • Xbox One
  • Xbox Series X/S
  • webOS smart TVs
  • Chromecast streaming devices
  • Windows PCs

There is no account registration or login required to use Pluto TV.

Is Pluto TV actually free?

Yes, Pluto TV is completely free. There’s no need to sign up or provide payment information. However, it does include commercials during programming. All the content is supported by mid-roll advertising. You can expect to have your video interrupted by ads about every six or seven minutes, about the same as if you were watching broadcast television.

Pluto TV

Does Pluto TV have ads?

Yes, Pluto TV includes ads in its content. The “catch” with Pluto TV is that it is ad-supported, so you’ll encounter commercials during your viewing experience. As a free, ad-supported streaming service, Pluto TV provides access to its content without a membership fee, but with the inclusion of commercials.

Pluto TV

Pluto TV

What makes Pluto TV different from other streaming services?

One of the most interesting aspects of Pluto’s system is summed up by a catchphrase they use in their marketing: “Programmed By Humans.” Instead of using algorithms to tell you what you should watch, the service employs dedicated curators to choose and schedule content. Think about it like a mixtape made for you by a friend versus a playlist auto-generated by Spotify. The human element can find connections between movies and shows, unearth lost treasures and generally deliver a more unique experience than the purely computer-controlled one that other streamers deliver.

Is there on-demand content available on Pluto TV?

While the vast majority of Pluto TV’s content is found on its streaming channels, the service has begun to offer on-demand programming in recent years. That content is primarily focused on their movie library, which spans hundreds of titles and includes huge hits like Titanic and Braveheart. Some TV shows are also available on demand, mostly classics from the 20th century like The Twilight Zone and The Jerry Springer Show. Yes, we called Jerry a classic and we stand by it. If you’re looking for more modern programming, or content made exclusively for the service like Netflix and Hulu have, you won’t find it here.

Pluto TV Mockup

Pluto TV Mockup

What’s available to watch on Pluto TV?

It can be a little overwhelming to open Pluto TV for the first time and see everything that the service has sprawled out in front of you. The easiest section to understand is the traditional live channels like MTV, CNN, BET and the like. Those work pretty much exactly like their cable and broadcast alter egos.

Pluto also has a wide selection of topic-oriented channels (like animals, history and technology) as well as channels that just show a single series or franchise like Star Trek or The Walking Dead. There are also seasonal channels – right now it’s overflowing with Christmas content, but when other holidays come along you can expect tailored offerings around them.

Some of my personal favorite Pluto TV channels include:

  • TokuShoutSu – giant monster mayhem from Japan with shows like Ultraman, Kamen Rider and more
  • 70s Cinema – classic flicks from one of the golden decades in movie history
  • Xtreme Outdoors – survival shows from the History Channel
  • Jeopardy! – nonstop episodes of the smartest game show ever
  • The Bob Ross Channel – 24/7 mellow moods and painting with the beloved public TV artist

Pluto TV also boasts a wide selection of Spanish-language programming as well as music channels.

For on-demand video, content is broken out into on-demand TV series and movies. Both can be sorted by genre. Pluto TV also has a “This Month Only” section for content that is available for a limited time. For the most part, their streaming offerings don’t change very often, so you don’t have to worry about a show you’ve been enjoying suddenly vanishing.

Because it’s free, Pluto TV is a great way to do some low-effort video streaming. While you might not necessarily find the hottest content, the sheer size of their library and its ease of use makes it a solid service to add to your smart TV or streaming device.

Check out Pluto TV here.

What is the downside of Pluto TV?

The primary downside of Pluto TV is its limited on-demand content compared to other live TV services, which often offer a broader range of on-demand shows and movies. Pluto TV offers a variety of channels, including national news and sports, but it does not specifically provide local TV channels.

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