Founded in 2013, Pluto TV is the leading free streaming service in the U.S., serving as a 21st century bundled experience, offering viewers more than 100 channels and thousands of hours of on-demand content.
By investing in AVOD, Viacom joins NBCUniversal in aligning with a streaming model that preserves the traditional role of advertising. Disney and WarnerMedia, by contrast, have emphasized subscription revenue in their forthcoming entries as traditional media looks to make up ground against Netflix and other streaming giants.
Los Angeles-based Pluto has attracted investments from Scripps Networks Interactive, Sky, Third Wave Capital Partners and Samsung Venture Investment Corp., the venture-capital arm of Samsung. It sources programming from more than 130 partnerships with media networks, major film and television studios, and a wide range of digital content producers.
Pluto has accumulated more than 12 million monthly active users, 7.5 million of which are on connected TVs. Viacom’s announcement of the transaction said Pluto has also secured new distribution deals that will make the service available on tens of millions of additional devices in the coming months.
“Today marks an important step forward in Viacom’s evolution, as we work to move both our company and the industry forward. Pluto TV’s unique and market-leading product, combined with Viacom’s brands, content, advanced advertising capabilities and global scale, creates a great opportunity for consumers, partners and Viacom,” Viacom CEO Bob Bakish said in the official release. “As the video marketplace continues to segment, we see an opportunity to support the ecosystem in creating products at a broad range of price points, including free. To that end, we see significant white space in the ad-supported streaming market and are excited to work with the talented Pluto TV team, and a broad range of Viacom partners, to accelerate its growth in the U.S. and all over the world.”
Pluto TV CEO and co-founder Tom Ryan will continue to serve as CEO of Pluto TV, which will operate as an independent subsidiary of Viacom upon closing of the transaction, which is expected in the first quarter of 2019.
“Since our launch less than five years ago, and particularly over the past year, Pluto TV has enjoyed explosive growth and become the category leader in free streaming television,” Ryan said. “Viacom’s portfolio of global, iconic brands and IP, advanced advertising leadership and international reach will enable Pluto TV to grow even faster and become a major force in streaming TV worldwide. Viacom is the perfect partner to help us accomplish our mission of entertaining the planet.”
Once it had determined that investing in AVOD was the right strategy, Viacom also held talks with Tubi TV, another top AVOD streaming service. The acquisition is the largest of Bakish’s two-year tenure as CEO. Last year, the company brought Vidcon and AwesomenessTV into the fold.