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Pluto TV is the perfect streaming service if you want to surf channels and just watch what’s on. Admit it, even though your cable TV subscription had 200 channels of stuff you didn’t watch, you could easily spend an hour or two just running up and down the channels looking for a movie that makes you nostalgic.
Pluto TV doesn’t require an account, it’s absolutely free, and there are no upgrade options. There are commercials, traditional live sports are limited, and you won’t get broadcast channels. But it is 100 channels of pure distraction, with some live news, thousands of movies and TV shows, and it won’t set you back a penny.
Pluto TV streams live content accessed through an app or website. When you turn it on, it enables a standard TV guide that you can scroll through to select what to watch.
The content available is mostly free online content curated to appear in genre-based channels like Flicks of Fury, Horror 24/7, FailArmy, and StandUP. There is an entire channel dedicated to cat videos. There are also all kinds of movies and classic TV shows sorted into like channels, and some established sources like CNBC, Cheddar, and NBC News. The service recently struck a deal with Hulu to provide some on-demand content, although it doesn’t seem as well integrated as the rest.
The available content changes frequently, expertly curated to keep the content rotating and fresh. You’ll enjoy the curated content from The Onion, IGN, Nerdist, and GameSpot. You won’t see any newly released movies or original content like Hulu or Netflix. But you will stumble across classics like Escape Plan (2013), Gattaca (1997), or Short Circuit (1986).
Pro Tip: Although Pluto TV doesn't offer a cloud-based DVR service, you can click on the name of a movie, rather than the channel icon, to start at the beginning. Click LIVE to jump to the current moment in the timeline.
You won’t see anything from ESPN, but Pluto TV carries a lot of non-traditional sports coverage, like kickboxing, wrestling, and poker. While I watched, there was a lot of NCAA women’s volleyball coverage available, and the live coverage is marked with an icon.
The Pluto TV Sports channel includes documentaries on athletes, and you can watch the World Poker Tour channel to keep up with the worldwide casino tournaments. There is a FOX Sports channel, but it airs repeat episodes from past days rather than showing live content. Other options for sports channels include Fight, Stadium, Sports News, and Impact! Wrestling.
Pluto TV includes free internet radio options across genres which function much like the music channels you’d find on cable TV or a paid streaming service. Choose from hip-hop, pop, electronic music, classic rock, soul, and jazz.
The completely free service doesn't require you to make an account or give up a credit card number. There is truly no fine print to read. If you choose to make an account, you can mark channels as favorites for easier viewing. As a tradeoff, there are 30-second advertisements interspersed, as you would see on free TV or your old cable subscription. But watching 1-4 commercials still seems shorter than I encounter watching over-the-air TV with an antenna.
The value of the service is in the curation. You could stumble through YouTube to find Funny or Die, or play classic clips from MST3K, or search for Close Encounters of the Third Kind on Netflix. But Pluto TV is perfect for the days when you just want to scroll through options that someone else has put together.
US viewers can download desktop apps for Windows and Mac computers or stream it on a web browser. There are mobile apps for iOS and Android devices, or you can use a streaming device like a Roku, Apple TV, or Amazon Fire TV. Here is the complete list:
• iOS mobile & tablet
• Android mobile & tablet
• Android TV
• Google Nexus Player
• Google Chromecast
• Chrome Web App
• Amazon Kindle Fire • Amazon Fire TV • Amazon Fire TV Stick • Roku • Apple TV (4th Gen) • PlayStation 4
The international apps and the US app have different content due to licensing restrictions, and the on-demand content is unique from platform to platform, likely also due to licensing. I added the Roku streaming channel, and there was a large selection of on-demand movies and TV shows. Pluto TV offers at least once commercial-free movie option every week.
Pluto isn’t a replacement for a subscription service, but it has a lot of eyeballs. You won’t find the latest episode of The Good Place. It’s more of a traditional, nostalgic experience where you surf between channels and catch bits of whatever is showing.
The curated content is perfect to watch when you want to be distracted and don’t have any idea what to watch. You’ll definitely discover something new-I spent an hour watching College Humor’s Troopers, which follows Rich and Larry, two incompetent troopers in the service of Dreadlord Sinister.
You might not appreciate the bumbling Stormtrooper parody, but Pluto TV has something you’ll enjoy. The most compelling feature is that it delivers non-stop, curated content you can watch on nearly any device, all for free. Download the streaming channel on your Roku, or try out the app on your phone. It’s no risk entertainment at your fingertips.
Megan Southard is a writer, mom, technology enthusiast, and movie junkie. She dreads the day her kids have to explain gadgets to her and is old enough to say, "I was the remote for our TV growing up."
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