Pluto TV’s CEO explains how he grew its audience by 50% in 7 months with help from big new partners like the NFL and Comcast (VIAB)
Category : entrepreneur
- Pluto TV CEO Tom Ryan, named one of the power players leading the rise of free, ad-supported video in 2019 by Business Insider, boosted the streaming-TV service’s audience by 50% since Viacom acquired it in March.
- Pluto TV’s 18 million monthly active users makes it the largest ad-supported streaming-TV service of its kind on the market. It dwarfs rival Xumo and is on par with another AVOD service, Tubi.
- Ryan said he helped Pluto TV scale by doing three things: Adding more content from major media brands like the BBC, CNN, and the NFL Network; expanding distribution from streaming-media players and smart TVs to set-top boxes from cable providers like Comcast and Cox; and growing its offerings in Europe with the help of Viacom.
- Ryan said he also thinks the increase in SVOD services has been a boon for ad-supported services like Pluto TV as people spend more on streaming platforms and look for free options to supplement them.
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Ad-supported streaming-TV service Pluto TV has posted impressive audience growth since it was acquired by Viacom in March.
Pluto TV ended July with 18 million monthly active users, up 50% since January, Viacom reported.
The company was founded, by CEO Tom Ryan and Chief Growth Officer Ilya Pozin, on the premise that ad-supported TV isn’t going away; streaming-TV is the future; and that having linear channels can make it easier to discover its wide breadth of content.
Ryan, named one of the power players leading the rise of free, ad-supported video in 2019 by Business Insider, shared three key things he and his team did to scale quickly over the past few months.
They brought on more major media brands like the BBC, CNN, and the NFL; expanded distribution from streaming-media players and smart TVs to set-top boxes from cable providers like Comcast and Cox; and grew their offerings in Europe with the help of Viacom.
“We were already a fast-growing company independently,” Ryan said. “But with the Viacom acquisition, the quick integration, and everything that we’ve done with them across their business, in such a short period of time, we’re seeing the business rising to new heights.”
At Pluto’s reported size, the company is on par with the 20 million active users on-demand competitor Tubi said it surpassed in May, and dwarfs direct-rival Xumo, which told Business Insider in April that it had about 5.5 million monthly active users. (There is no industry standard for viewership measurement at ad-supported platforms.)
Pluto TV is adding more popular content to its library
Pluto TV is working with 165 content partners today, up from 120 in January, when Viacom agreed to buy Pluto TV for $340 million, Ryan said.
Those partners, including major media brands like BBC, CNN, and the NFL, have launched branded channels on the free service, and helped grow Pluto TV’s library of on-demand movies, TV shows, and specials. Pluto TV also licenses content and programs channels itself, and has introduced more Spanish- and Portuguese-language channels in recent months.
Viacom, meanwhile, has added more than 42 channels, to Pluto TV’s line up of more than 200, for brands like Nick, AwesomenessTV, VH1’s “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and MTV’s “Love and Hip-Hop.”
But Ryan wants to be clear: Pluto is not Viacom Plus or Viacom Direct.
‘This is Pluto TV,” he said. “Viacom is an extremely important content partner to us, but Pluto TV is a full-fledged neutral platform for all content partners.”
Nonetheless, Viacom’s backing has helped Pluto TV get in the door at more media companies.
“When you’re in a business that requires close partnerships across content partners, distribution partners, and advertisers, and you’re just getting starting, you’ve got the cold-start problem,” Ryan said. “Now with Viacom behind us, we are seeing even more interest. It’s a clear message to the market that Pluto TV is here to stay.”
Pluto TV has landed distribution deals with more TV devices and grown its offerings in Europe
With Viacom’s help, Pluto TV has also brought its free service into the pay-TV universe, inking distribution deals with Comcast’s Xfinity TV platforms and Cox’s Contour.
The deals build on Pluto TV’s strategy to be part of as many TV platforms as possible to reach the scale advertisers and programmers want. Pluto TV is on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and Android TV devices. It’s also integrated into some smart TVs, on top of distributing its app through those sets; it has channels on Samsung TV Plus, and it powers Vizio’s WatchFree service.
“You’re presented front and center constantly to the owner of that device,” Ryan said, of the smart-TV integrations. “That’s been another big reason why we’ve grown so quickly.”
Pluto TV is expanding internationally, too. Before Viacom acquired Pluto TV, it was in the UK via Sky’s Now TV streaming platform, as well as in Germany and Austria. Viacom has introduced new channels and programming to build out those localized offerings. In June, the companies announced that Pluto TV would also move into Latin America in early 2020.
Ryan credits Pluto TV’s pace of growth with one factor that’s outside of his control — the rise in SVOD services
The explosion of SVOD services on the market, including the chatter around forthcoming platforms like Apple TV Plus, Disney Plus, and HBO Max, may have also been a boon for ad-supported services like Pluto TV.
People are looking for free or cheaper options to round out their TV packages with as they spend more on streaming-video services, Ryan said.
More than half of Pluto TV users are cord-cutters or cord-nevers who don’t subscribe to traditional pay-TV services. The average Pluto TV viewer is between the ages of 18-34, and watches Pluto TV mainly in the living room, on a connected TV, for more than two hours at a time.
“There’s so much competition in [SVOD], and consumers are excited about it, but they’ve got a limited budget that they’re willing to devote to these things,” Ryan said.”I’d say that’s a confluence of the factors that have led to our growth.”
Pluto TV makes most of its revenue from selling traditional 15- and 30-second commercials that air in its linear streams. It also makes money from content sponsorships, brand integrations, and other kinds of marketing deals, like pop-up channels to promote live events.
Viacom does not break out Pluto TV’s revenue in its financials, and Ryan would not share them or say if the company was profitable.