Pluto TV Review – Is It Worth It?
Pluto TV is a streaming service that works over the Internet. Unlike many streaming services such as Prime Video, Sling TV, DirecTV Now, Hulu, Netflix, etc., Pluto TV is completely free. If you’ve ever used one of the media streaming apps like Plex or Kodi, Pluto TV feels a bit like that, but without the guilty suspicion that half the content you’re looking at is probably violating someone’s copyright.
Pluto TV’s model is that they curate public content into organized channels by collecting media from various legitimate free sources and then organizing them into categories such as news, sports, comedy, gaming, chill out, entertainment, music, radio and a whole lot more. This page on the Pluto TV website shows you just how much content is available; it’s a lot. As of May 2019, Pluto has 75 content deals and more than 100 free channels, with 15 million subscribers. The service makes their money by showing ads between programs.
How to access Pluto TV
Pluto TV is available on just about every platform in existence. There are Pluto TV apps for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and just about every streaming video player, including Roku, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, PlayStation 4, and ChromeCast. The apps are light-weight, have attractive and efficient interfaces based on the tried and true cable TV grid. One neat feature: on Windows and Mac, you can download the programs you want to watch and see them later. Pluto TV is accessible via an app or directly in the browser. Apps are available for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android and seem to work okay. I have not been able to access Pluto TV via any browser on any operating system for almost two weeks so am unable to comment on how good that experience is.
Pluto TV content
Most of the content on Pluto TV comes from public sources. Pluto TV is owned by Viacom, the large cable company, and as a result the service has been able to ink deals with content providers like the BBC, CNBC, NBC, CBSN, IGN, CNET and many others. Pluto TV even has a deal with Hulu to offer all of their public content. The service regularly adds new content to its channels. There is content available both in the channels section, which works just like standard TV – what’s on is on, and you can watch it when it’s on. Then there’s also an extensive On Demand section, where you can pick and choose and watch what you want.
The content is sometimes a curious mix of new and old. The news channels have exactly what you would expect: a few big names like CBS, CNN and Sky News, and then some oddballs like Cheddar News. The movie channels are an eclectic mix of TV oldies, classics, second-string new releases, a fair sampling of older but first-rate movies, and even some genuine recent hits. When I looked at the channel guide in May of 2019, I found movies like “Real Genius”, “The Terminator”, “The Burbs”, “Congo”, “Legally Blonde” and “Legally Blonde 2” and the remake of “True Grit”. It’s not what you’re going to find on HBO or Showtime, but it’s not far off the mark, and it doesn’t cost anything.
Comedy content is pretty good and tends to feature lots of YouTube videos and content from The Onion and Cracked. It too changes often and has broad appeal. Music is mainly YouTube, lifestyle programming is the same although there are lots of YouTube content around exercise, cooking and that kind of thing.
Sports is a weak spot for Pluto TV, presumably because of licensing. While there is some content from Fox Sports, the other sports content is old stuff or extreme sports from the internet. There is a poker channel if that’s your thing though.
Cats 24/7 channel. No more need be said about that one.
Pluto TV price and quality
Pluto TV is free, so price isn’t an issue. Really the only cost to the service is the spot it takes up on your streaming device’s Home menu or your web browser’s toolmarks bar. There are ads in between shows, but they’re considerably less obnoxious in their quantity and frequency than the ones on the TV that we pay for, so it’s really not an issue.
Video quality tends to be good. The user interface is very straightforward except when using a browser, where it can be a little crowded. The content streams offer good quality images and audio although some of the YouTube and publicly available content can be of a poor quality. That isn’t Pluto TVs fault though, as it doesn’t control the source material.
The Pluto TV experience
The user experience is much the same whatever device you use. Once installed, Pluto TV just works. Navigation and stream selection is the same as on any media center app. Find something to watch, select the stream and enjoy. That really is all here is to it.
Is Pluto TV worth watching? For a lazy afternoon when you have nothing else to do, absolutely. As a budget alternative to cable TV? For sure. Is it a complete replacement for cable service? Not really, no. While free and of an excellent quality at that price, the content is really mixed. Some is quite entertaining while some is very poor. I have found that using Pluto TV as the equivalent of “basic cable” (stuff to watch when you’re just in the mood to veg out) and then adding something like Prime Video and/or Netflix as the “premium package” provides an ideal mix of value and new releases.
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