Pluto TV is a free streaming service owned by Paramount Global (formerly ViacomCBS), which is the parent company of several popular film companies and television production networks.
And Team Clark has designated it as one of the best places to find free streaming TV in 2023!
Pluto TV offers content from networks such as Comedy Central, AMC, Nickelodeon and MTV through live video streaming channels and on-demand functionality.
It is offered without a monthly subscription fee. Instead, Pluto TV makes money off the advertising it is able to sell during these streaming broadcasts.
Is it possible to rely on Pluto TV to be a realistic substitute for subscription live TV services like YouTube TV, Hulu Live or Sling TV? That’s what we set out to find out in this Team Clark review.
Table of Contents
For the purposes of this review, I downloaded the Pluto TV app on my Roku, Android and iOS devices to compare functionality and performance. I also used the Pluto TV web player, which is accessible through the official website without signup.
This review is one of many we conducted as a part of our free streaming TV series. You can learn more about our strategies for getting free streaming TV here:
What Is Pluto TV?
Pluto TV is a free live-stream television and on-demand video service from Paramount Global. It has more than 250 unique live channels that stream content — with commercial breaks — at no charge to the consumer. There also are on-demand selections.
Content providers range from Paramount properties like MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central to major news platforms including NBC, CBS and CNN.
How To Watch Pluto TV
Pluto TV is accessible through mobile, streaming and web applications with no requirement for viewers to sign up in order to see the content.
The Sign-Up Process Is Optional
There’s no need for credit card information with Pluto TV. In fact, the service doesn’t require that you provide any personal information at all in order to access its content. Whether using an app or a web-based player, Pluto TV content starts streaming without prompting you for even as much as an email address.
That said, Pluto TV does offer an incentive to plant some roots and stay for a while. The sign-up process takes less than 30 seconds and gives you the ability to set your favorite channels and resume watching on-demand content from a different device. Since much of the Pluto TV platform is based upon easily searchable live streams, this is more of a luxury than a necessity.
Devices and Apps
Pluto TV has phone and tablet apps available for download on the Google Play Store (for Android devices), Apple App Store (for iOS devices) and through Amazon.
For television streaming purposes, Pluto TV is compatible with the following devices:
- Apple TV
- Android TV
- Amazon Fire TV
- Google Chromecast
- Samsung Smart TVs
- Vizio Smart TVs
- LG Smart TVs
- Hisense Smart TVs
- Xbox One
Pluto TV also has a streaming web player that is accessible through Mac and Windows laptop or desktop computers.
Content Available To Stream on Pluto TV
With more than 250 free live streaming television channels, Pluto TV offers a wide variety of content. It also has on-demand movies and TV series available for streaming. For ease of understanding the menu of options, I’ve broken down some of the more popular offerings by genre:
- Pluto News
- NBC News
- Best of The Today Show
- Bloomberg Television
- Cheddar News
- Newsmax TV
- 60 Minutes
- Court TV
With brands like CBSN, you are able to access the full 24-hour news channel. Others, including CNN, offer recorded content that may be hours or even days old. Rather than full shows of news programming, networks opting to use the CNN model on this platform are showing shorter, condensed clips of news broadcasts or commentary.
- Fox Sports
- CBS Sports HQ
- NFL Channel (not NFL Network)
- PGA Tour Rewind
- Impact Wrestling
- MLB Channel (not MLB Network)
You’re not going to find much in the way of live sporting events on Pluto TV. Nearly all of the sports channels are of the highlight or analysis variety. Major live sporting events — like those that air on ESPN — are not available on this platform and will almost always require a subscription service.
- Comedy Central (Comedy Central-Pluto TV, Comedy Central Animation and Comedy Central Stand Up)
- MTV (MTV-Pluto TV, MTV Dating and MTV Block Party)
- Nickelodeon (Nick-Pluto TV and Nick Jr.-Pluto TV)
- VH1 (VH1-I Love Reality and VH1-Hip Hop Family)
- Spike TV (Spike-Pluto TV and Spike Outdoors)
- CMT (CMT-Pluto TV)
- BET (BET-Pluto TV and BET Her)
- TV Land (TV Land-Sitcoms)
- AMC (The Walking Dead, Brockmire)
These are recognizable names in the traditional cable TV game, but note that you won’t get the actual full channel for Comedy Central or Nickelodeon. Instead, you’re seeing a streaming channel that features some of the content you’re familiar with from those platforms. For instance, the Comedy Central-Pluto TV channel may air current shows like Tosh.0, but you’ll find the episodes are a few years old. You’ll need access to the full channels via subscription elsewhere if you want to stream new episodes. In May 2020, Pluto TV also added the first five seasons of the popular AMC series The Walking Dead as a part of a new partnership.
Popular On-Demand Movies
In addition to its live streaming channels, Pluto TV also offers on-demand streaming options. These are available at your leisure and do not have to be watched live.
You’ll notice some pretty recognizable mainstream movie titles that include major stars like Matthew McConaughey and Leonardo DiCaprio. And there is an extensive collection of James Bond movies.
But you’ll probably also notice that the release dates on most of the films in the content library are years or even decades old. Here are some examples that were available at the time of this writing:
- Dinner for Schmucks
- August: Osage County
- Mean Girls
- Road House
- A Bridge Too Far
Titles such as The Terminator and American Beauty have been featured on Pluto in the past. The availability of these movies changes often, so you may want to act quickly if you see something you like.
Popular On-Demand TV Shows
If you’re into reality series, there are several big names that are available for streaming on this platform. Here are a few of the more recognizable TV series available in the Pluto On-Demand TV collection at the time of this writing:
- The Facts of Life
- Happy Days
- Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman
- Star Trek
- Spin City
- Sabrina the Teenage Witch
- The Mary Tyler Moore Show
- Married with Children
- The Twilight Zone
The availability of these TV shows also changes often, so again, you may want to act quickly if you see something you like.
Pluto TV is not in the original content business, though the way some of the content is presented on the platform does appear unique. Instead of making its own content, Pluto TV is licensing content from more than 75 providers. This content is presented on customized channels that create an original experience on Pluto TV.
While not original to Pluto TV, you can get access to things like “CBS Selects” on demand that gives you current season episodes of popular CBS shows like NCIS or Blue Bloods.
If you’re afraid you might miss the feel of the cable TV interface, I have some good news: Pluto TV mimics that experience with menus and channel surfing capabilities that will remind you of satellite or cable.
How Bad Are the Ads?
Watching the live channels on Pluto TV is going to be very similar to that of an over-the-air television channel in terms of the number and duration of commercial breaks.
I sat down to watch a few episodes of live streaming content on one of the leading channels on Pluto TV and came away with the following data on the advertisements and commercial breaks:
- For a typical 30-minute streaming time slot, you can expect approximately four commercial breaks.
- During those breaks, you’re likely to see as many as six advertisements that range 20-30 seconds each.
- Pluto TV doesn’t have a huge problem with repetitive commercials, but be ready to see quite a few cross-promotional ads for content that is available on other Pluto TV channels.
- Sometimes the commercial breaks end with a screen that sits there for 5-10 seconds, reading “We’ll be right back.”
I also charted some commercials from their on-demand section.
One episode of Roseanne had a 26:37 runtime, which is more than three minutes less than you’d expect during a typical 30-minute time slot on traditional television. There were four commercial breaks, but they each had just three advertisements and lasted just 1:15 for a total of five minutes worth of commercials.
The user interface is actually pretty straightforward. It felt familiar, even though I had never used it prior to starting research for this review.
First, let’s look at the mobile experience. You’ll notice that the live channels are viewable while you’re searching the guide for content.
You can expand to a full-screen view by clicking on the video or simply by turning your phone from the vertical to the horizontal position.
As you’ll notice at the bottom of the screen, you can toggle from live television to on-demand by clicking the “Movies & Shows” tab.
One of the options I really liked was the ability to sort the live channels by genre.
I also found it interesting (you may find it helpful or perhaps annoying) that the phone app pretty regularly sent me push notifications when there was content it presumed I may have an interest in viewing.
Here’s an example of what that looked like:
Finally, I also found the web version of the product pretty easy to navigate. It was similar enough to the mobile app that I didn’t get lost upon switching between the two.
Tips for Enjoying Pluto TV
Has some of the available content caught your attention? If so, here are some tips for enjoying it on Pluto TV:
- Set It and Forget It: Like a TV experience from yesteryear, you will have no DVR functionality on the live streams for Pluto TV. So, once you decide on a channel with content you want to see for the next 30 or 60-minute block, you might as well put the remote away and get comfortable. There’s no pause or rewind.
- Opt for the User Account: I’m not one to tell you to sign up for something you’re not required to sign up for, but it is worth it if you’re going to use Pluto TV as your main source of streaming entertainment. Being able to set favorites for channels and order them as you desire is an easy time-saving win if you’re going to be spending hours on the platform. Plus, you get access to some content that you otherwise wouldn’t.
Final Thoughts on Pluto TV
Still trying to decide whether or not you should add Pluto TV to your streaming portfolio? Here are some pros and cons to think over:
Pluto TV: Pros and Cons
|FREE!||Very few “brand new” episodes of popular content|
|Cable-like experience with recognizable brands and content||Truncated versions of major TV channels|
|Solid titles in on-demand movies and TV show section||No DVR functionality on live streams|
If you have decided that you’re going to quit paying for cable TV and subscription streaming services, I think Pluto TV needs serious consideration as a part of your free streaming content mix. There is a strong selection of cable-worthy content on this platform and the barrier to giving it a trial run is extremely low. Try it out!
Do you have experience watching the Pluto TV streaming service? We’d love to hear your thoughts in our Clark.com community!