Starting today, 100,000-plus hours of free, ad-supported programming on ViacomCBS-owned Pluto are available to Verizon customers. The service will come in the form of an app on Android mobile devices and pre-installed on Fios cable boxes and Stream TV and 5G Amazon Home Fire devices.
The companies aren’t offering a precise number, but say “tens of millions” of Verizon customers will now have access to Pluto’s hundreds of channels, a significant step in the evolution of the pay-TV bundle. Verizon has just shy of 116 million wireless customers, plus four million video subscribers on FiOS and another six million FiOS broadband customers.
With or without a pay-TV subscription, Verizon customers will be able to watch curated versions of well-known TV networks. The partners declare it as the biggest deal to date in the emerging category known as “FAST” — free, ad-supported television.
Three new co-branded channels will be made available as exclusives for Verizon subscribers: Movies on Verizon, Real Life on Verizon, and Yahoo Finance.
For ViacomCBS, which acquired Pluto in 2019, the deal also brings benefits to its overall portfolio of networks, which have important distribution relationships with Verizon. Earlier this year, the companies had reached a distribution deal for linear carriage of ViacomCBS networks.
Pluto had about 12 million monthly active users at the time it was acquired, a tally that has more than doubled since. ViacomCBS will reveal updated numbers for Pluto on its next quarterly earnings call in early August, but executives are targeting 30 million users by the end of 2020.
While streaming overall is booming, free options are seen as particularly appealing to both advertisers and cost-conscious viewers. Peacock is the latest entrant in the ad-supported streaming field, joining Crackle, Tubi, Xumo and several others. Pluto, founded in 2013, has long been known for advocating a linear, lean-back experience defined by a programming guide and live signals, an approach since emulated by Peacock, Roku, Amazon Fire and others.
Titles featured on Movies on Verizon include Arrival, Carol, Sliding Doors, The Illusionist and Donnie Darko. The “Real Life” channel will feature shows like Coast Guard Alaska/Florida/Pacific Northwest, Critical Rescue, Navy Seals: Untold Stories and Special Delivery: Baby ER.
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