EXCLUSIVE: Pluto TV and Verizon are breaking some new ground in streaming, unveiling what they call the industry’s first comprehensive distribution deal spanning pay-TV, connected TV and mobile, Deadline has learned.
Both parties remained tight-lipped about financial terms.
Pluto, the free, ad-supported service owned by ViacomCBS, has more than 20 million monthly viewers. Under the deal, it will have placement across Verizon’s wireless network, which is the largest in the U.S., as well as on its connected platforms like Stream TV and on its pay-TV service FiOS. Along with rival AT&T, Verizon has been emphasizing 5G technology via its Ultra WIdeband network, which the telecom giant says will be a vital backbone for streaming over the coming years.
Verizon has just shy of 116 million wireless customers, plus 4 million video subscribers on FiOS and another 6 million FiOS broadband customers.
Viacom paid $340 million to acquire Pluto in January 2019. At that time, it had about 12 million monthly active users. Backed by an expanded parent company after the late-2019 merger of Viacom and CBS, Pluto has increased its additions of new channels, which now number in the hundreds. The streaming service expects to end 2020 with more than 30 million monthly viewers.
An editorial team of curators at Pluto work to ensure that the branded channels it carries (AMC Networks just announced four new ones last week) do not interfere with existing carriage agreements with pay-TV operators. Channels, which are displayed in a linear-TV-like programming grid, are often geared toward show brands or characters, with recent ones centering on the James Bond franchise, The Walking Dead and MTV’s The Challenge.
Pluto has been gaining traction along with other leaders in ad-supported video on demand (AVOD). Along with Pluto, major AVOD players include Tubi, just acquired by Fox; Xumo, bought this year by Comcast; and Crackle, control of which transferred last year from Sony to Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment. NBCUniversal’s Peacock, which just started rolling out on Comcast platforms, will include a free AVOD version along with subscription tiers when it launches nationally in July.
The deal comes close on the heels of a linear carriage agreement reached between Verizon and ViacomCBS for the programmer’s full portfolio.