Emerging virtual MVPD Pluto TV, like most startups, is not press-shy. Ken Parks, the executive chairman of the free, ad-supported platform, has spoken with numerous outlets recently as the company has expanded its offerings.
Just two weeks ago, it added a VOD library of archival titles from Lionsgate, MGM and Warner Bros. to its ad-supported streaming lineup of 100-plus live channels. Pluto, which has raised $43.5 million from investors such as Sky, Scripps Networks, United Talent Agency and Universal Music Group, launched in 2014.
This week, Parks talked with Cablefax about Pluto’s pitch to cable programmers. While the service began by curating YouTube-based video, then moving to digital-first outlets like the Onion, Newsy and PopSugar, it has been adding a fair number of traditional networks. An NBC News-MSNBC co-venture has been on since 2015. Since then, CNBC, Bloomberg TV, Sky News, RT America, NewsmaxTV and The Weather Network have created channels on the service. A+E Networks and Scripps also contribute content to nonbranded, themed channels.
The carriage-fee paradigm that has defined the relationship between traditional operators and programmers has evolved in the streaming era, Parks said.
“We don’t have the size of the checkbook that some others have, so we’re not in the business of writing silly guarantees, but instead we do share back something that’s viewed in a lot of cases or by a lot of content providers as more valuable, which is data insight,” he said. “This is exactly how people are going to be consuming your content in the future. Take that data that’s hugely valuable and use it to inform your whole OTT strategy.”
The company is in the process of rolling out a complimentary on-demand offering, and Parks anticipates Pluto moving toward a “freemium” model. Parks has firsthand experience with that, having been Spotify’s first U.S. employee. He believes another key to Pluto's continued growth is its strong reach to millennials.
“The fact that we’ve been able to attract millions of millennials to our platform, which is curated and linear and lean-back, proves our thesis,” he said. “If you give that audience the kind of content they want to watch, they’re not programmed differently to older people in terms of fundamentally not wanting to work to be entertained.”