Yet another traditional media company is jumping into direct-to-consumer waters. Viacom said late Tuesday that it will pay $340 million in cash to acquire free US streaming service Pluto TV.
Ad-supported Pluto, which counts former Spotify chief content officer as executive chairman, features more than 100 channels. Content includes movies, sports, TV and cartoons and digital series. Paramount Pictures is among Pluto’s content providers. It reports having more than 12 million monthly active users and is available across devices such as Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast and Sony Playstation as well as smart TVs and via mobile apps.
Pluto TV is backed by USVP, ProSiebenSat.1 Media, Discovery (via a prior investment made by Scripps Networks Interactive), Samsung Ventures, Sky and other prominent investors.
Viacom’s plans for Pluto include using it to go after consumers for its targeted subscription products, including Noggin and Comedy Central Now. It also can promote content from other platforms, such as pay-TV, theaters and beyond. And it means, billions of addressable advertising impressions.
Viacom has pulled back on its licensing of content to other streamers in recent years, with Pluto to be the beneficiary. Pluto will act as an independent subsidiary of Viacom, with CEO and co-founder Tom Ryan to continue as CEO. And the programmer, which has been trying to mend fences with pay TV distributors, is presenting Pluto as part of its tool kit. Viacom saidPluto can be added by distributors as a premium free service for broadband-only and other subs and paints it as a customer acquisition tool for certain tiers of pay TV packages.
“The video marketplace continues to evolve, with offerings segmenting by price point. Pluto TV is the leading platform to serve the marketplace at the free price point, and its acquisition allows Viacom to directly participate in this important segment, benefiting Viacom, Pluto TV and our collective partners. And, while Pluto TV is very U.S.-centric today, the opportunity is definitely global,” Viacom pres/CEO Bob Bakish said in a memo to employees.
The deal is expected to close later this quarter.