Friday, May 15, 2020





Tsk. Can I ask a question? Does anybody actually use PlutoTV? Like, regularly?

I mean, I'm sure a few people do; I have. A decent amount actually; I used to keep it on occasionally at night, if I needed to fall asleep or something, I'd switch to that one channel that shows old WPT tournament highlights. The channel was on PlutoTV, and is still, um,- well, I'm not even certain calling it a channel is accurate; it's actually a bunch of "channels". And actually, I'm not certain that's accurate, 'cause what I describe as "channels" are somewhat subjective here. Some of them seem like channels that have an array of programming and new content, many of which is specialized to fit a brand identity, but a lot of times, well, something like that poker channel, a marathon that re-airs a bunch of episode of one or two shows. I remember watching "The Young Turks" channel on their a few times, but even that was mostly replaying a longform episode they shot that day and mostly that was the hours that they shot that day and half of that, I had already seen in various Youtube clips I'd watched earlier. Sometimes I'd see a movie on a movie channel there I'd want to see and I'd-, well, it was me, so I'd usually not watch it, because, I have a system and if I move from it, my system goes haywire and blah, blah, blah, my stupid problem, not yours...., but I think what I'm getting at here is that, I'm just not sure what to make of PlutoTV.

Or, for that matter, other, similar streaming internet sites like this.

What are similar sites to Pluto TV?

(Slight chuckles)

Um, so doing this article, is required me to do a lot of research on the technical side of what are called "Internet Television Services", and it reminds me that-um,... basically when I was school, I often labeled or considered one of the "Smart Ones" and that's true enough, but at one of the reunions we had, I remember getting back together with some of those old classmates and they seemed to think that because I was so smart that I would probably end up doing computers or something technical like that. It's funny to me, 'cause I'm really not that proficient computers, and trying to learn even these aspects and details of things within an industry that i really should know more about, is just a reminder that, yeah, I might be "Smart" in some ways, but some of this stuff, it's just waaaay, over my head. Over-the-Top of my head, you might say.

These "Internet Television Services," this basically refers to anything that streams on the internet, as opposed to watching on regular digital and antenna television. For these purposes though, I don't think PlutoTV really is a comparable comparison to things like Netflix or Hulu, or HBO Max, even though most articles I read say they are. However, to explain why that is, we're gonna have to dig into the many variations of internet streaming services, and this is where I start wondering about how this is some technobabble minutia, that makes me go back to the original question of, "Does anybody actually use Pluto TV?"

So, Pluto TV is an ASVOD. An Ad-Supported Video On Demand site. Now, all this means is that like most streaming sites, it's a VOD, but instead of subscribers paying to use the services, it makes revenue from advertising dollars. Now, Youtube, is the obvious big player in this specific field, although they also have a Premium service options Youtube Red or Youtube Premium, which-, I don't know what to make of that to be honest; I don't care for it though. What I'm really thinking of here are the more popular ADVODs, you'd think of something like Crackle or TubiTV, or Popcornflix, but even these aren't really the right comparisons, 'cause for the most part, they don't work the way PlutoTV does.

You go on Amazon, Hulu or Network or Crackle or TubiTV, or whatever, basically it's the same thing, you look for a specific thing to watch, you pick that thing, and then you watch it. PlutoTV though, it doesn't-, well it does have specific VOD content and programs, but mainly has channels.

It's got many, many channels, but you don't get to chose what's on those channel, you have to pick the channel and then you'd watch whatever's on it. Again, a lot of channels only have one or two things on it, so it's kinda the same, but really it's more like, getting a cable box or a satellite package with a bunch of channels on it, only for free. (So-a, Black Box, if you're my age.) Now, there are sites that basically do the same thing, but you have to pay for a package. Sling is the big one, but Philo and Fubo are also big in that space.

Now personally, I actually do find that appealing, but I grew up worshipping cable. While there are great things to having all these different streaming services to pick from and for the most part, literally almost anything we can think of to watch, whenever we want to watch it definitely has it's benefits, especially for somebody in my position, but I do miss the old format of cable or satellite television.

The great thing about having dozens or hundreds of channels at a remote control and not having the ability to just download anything else, is that you had a lot more opportunity for discovery. Much of the knowledge I do have, comes from watching a lot of television. But I didn't learn or watch television by picking and choosing what I watch and then watching it. Much of my knowledge,came from just channel surfing. Just flipping through channels used to be enthralling and educational 'cause you didn't know what exactly you'd run into and you'd find things that I know I wouldn't look up today if I didn't happen to come across while flipping channels and just stopping suddenly because something unusual grabbed your eye. Everything from "Ca$h Cab" to "Behind the Music" to "I Dream of Jeannie" to "Law & Order" to "Project Runway" to the original "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" and many, many, many other shows were stuff that I just happened to find one night, catch in the middle while thinking I was looking for something else, and went, "Wait, go back to that? What was that?"

So yeah, something like PlutoTV's structure, has an appeal to me. I don't know if others have that appeal though. And even though it's somewhat nostalgic for stuff like this, admittedly I don't use the channel much. I mean, it's on my Roku but so is 800 other channels and I still mostly only watch, like three of these services most of the time. I often forget it's there.

There must be somebody who watches it though, because PlutoTV just got bought out by CBS/Viacom and they already have, CBS All Access, which, I still think is a stupid, redundant site for them to have but whatever,... (my thoughts on CBS Access are at the link below)

(I think the same thing about the upcoming Peacock channel as well btw....) ... as well as Showtime's Premium streaming service. And there are other sites like PlutoTV that are essentially PlutoTV but under different subsidiaries. (I told you, I got 800 Roku channels.) SlingTV is probably the most well-known, but that's essentially a pay site. You can a few channels on there regularly, like BUZZR for free, but it's mostly a pay service. Essentially Sling is the alternative to the modern basic cable deal. And PlutoTV, is a like a free version of that.

These are called OTTs, which stands for Over-The-Top, which-, basically these are the streaming services that provide the equivalent of a decent cable package worth of television content. (At least that's the idea) Now, obviously PlutoTV doesn't replace cable, for instance, it's sports section is interesting, but you know, a bit limited. If I wanted to the see Monday Night Football, (Assuming one day in the future we'll have football again, damn COVID-19!) then yeah, PlutoTV sucks. But if you ever just want to watch an old rerun of "Unsolved Mysteries", well, it's got a channel for that. It's also good movie channels and some decent shows. For a free service like this, PlutoTV's got a lot of good stuff.

PlutoTV does also have a good VOD selection as well, much of which correlates to the Live TV channesl options as well now, which I think is a good addition. That was the thing that frankly always left me cold on PlutoTV, nowadays, while I like the idea of sorting through dozens of channels to find something random, I just don't think that's how people watch TV anymore. Or, to be precise, do what people who watch streaming television, watch actual television anymore.

That's what has always sorta confused me about PlutoTV, like this system, would've been great, like, Pre-Netflix streaming. If this was a transitional option between streaming becoming a regular viewing experience and before the rest of the internet and major media syndicates figured out how to begin transitioning from networks/cable to streaming alternative options, then PlutoTV would've made a lot more sense to me. Maybe not as an OTT to cable, which I don't think is a great description, but maybe as an end around to it? It always felt like it came too late to be relevant, but the idea and the site was too good to not breakthrough, and it did breakthrough.

Viacom bought the site for millions and this update, looks pretty decent. There are other OTTs out there, trying to emulate PlutoTV, and most of them just suck. And most of them aren't even free, many of them are trying to be paysites and while Sling can pull off charging for much of their collecting, options like NKT seems to be asking me to pay and login for channels that I can get on my antenna, and I don't watch those channels now.

There are better ones that you can pay for. Sling, Vidgo, Fubo, Philo is kinda interesting 'cause that's also under the Viacom umbrella. So, they basically have a free package in Pluto of basic cable, as well as one you'd pay $20/month to use, which you know, does include more real channels, although I noticed very few sports channels of note. I know a lot of people are thinking, "Who cares about sports", but that's really a bigger dealbreaker then you'd think. For one thing, businesses buy ESPN, especially bars. Secondly, they're the most expensive of the cable channels, basic anyway, because they charge a buttload to the cable distributors. They're the big reasons why some of these OTTs exist, because they're the ones that often raise the price of your cable bill, and that leads to people just dropping cable entirely. So, yeah, if you really still wanted cable, but didn't like sports too much, I can see why these are the main options for others. And I had noticed that on top of Pluto, others like Redbox of all sites, offered a select amount of Free Live TV channel options.

Other media corporations are getting into this game too. Sinclair Broadcasting has STIRR, there's one just for animation channels called VRV, for instance.


You know, I'm sounding really positively about this, 'cause there is a lot of good here, but I gotta admit PlutoTV, and the only other ASVOD that I think actually is a comparison to PlutoTV, XUMO, as much as I like these OTTs, I gotta admit, I'm still mostly amused that these sites are still around. You see, I'm checking out most of these on my Roku and, well, I'll just say it, I think of these as extra steps.

Like, if I want to watch something on one of the channels offered on these sites, why wouldn't I just first, go to the website of the network first? Or in many of these cases to Netflix or Amazon or Hulu. Most of these shows and movies that I can get on these channels are usually on some more notable and prominent site, and a lot of times, I can get these for free somewhere else. To me, the real appeal of ZUMO or PlutoTV in particular, is the channel searching simulation. I don't actually watch many of these channels on any regular basis, but when I do use PlutoTV or XUMO, I mostly do it to go through the channel guide, just to go through it, like I used to go through each channel when I had cable, and just watch the Prevue Channel all the way through when I had the most basic of basic cable. Now, it's all just click on the right button on the remote and bang, I can see what's on every channel, and that's awesome, but yeah, I don't actually watch these channels much.

People do though. I can see how for some it might be a preferred option to the streaming paysites that they might not be able to afford the most preferred streaming pay options, which I think reasonably most would agree are Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, whatever HBO's calling their thing now, and maybe one or two preferred others, and if that doesn't include an OTT paysite like Sling or some other equivalent then PlutoTV jumps up the list. (Especially in the middle of this pandemic; I'm sure everybody's done a run-through or two of all the apps on our Roku/Amazon Sticks/Apple whatevers.... )

I guess in that respect, it's kinda surprising that their aren't more comparable and equivalent comparisons to PlutoTV out there. I thought there'd be more options and it seems like some are trying but personally after sorting through everything I could find, despite many sites having similar elements to PlutoTV, I can only really believe XUMO as a real equal competitor to PlutoTV at the moment; if I'm wrong, please let me know and I'll be happy to check out other ASVODs myself, but PlutoTV is one of the most fascinating stories in the brief history of internet television.

They succeeded where several others have died sudden and forgotten deaths. (I don't think history's gonna remember to record much of go90, NimbleTV or even Seeso) They found a small niche in an overcrowded, top-heavy market that realistically they probably shouldn't have been able to find, and they managed to cultivate it enought to not only get noticed, but be valuable enough to have the biggest of big boys buy them out and see them as a company worth keeping around, promote and even devote time and effort to improve upon, even while they're busy with their own streaming services. Maybe it's a sign of what the future of internet television will look like, personally looking through the history of film and television business practices, I doubt it, but for a successful outlier, I don't think you could ask for more in this environment.

Good job, Pluto.

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