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Pluto TV-like channels coming to Paramount Plus, exec says

Paramount Plus is readying a new feature that will offer up its library of content to users through linear television feeds.

The feature was teased by Tom Ryan, a ViacomCBS executive in charge of streaming initiatives, during a video interview that was produced by the company and quietly published on YouTube this week.

The linear content features would be similar to what is found on Pluto TV, an ad-supported streaming service that Ryan co-founded in 2013. ViacomCBS acquired Pluto TV in early 2019 for $340 million; Ryan became the key executive in charge of the company’s streaming efforts last October.

Unlike other streaming services that force users to seek out movies and TV shows, Pluto TV is programmed more like a traditional broadcast or cable channel — it groups shows and movies based on topic or genre, then serves them up to viewers across 250 linear feeds.

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Pluto TV has been a wild success in the way it operates: More than 36 million users consume content on Pluto TV every month. Ryan attributes some of this success to the way Pluto TV takes the guesswork out of finding something to watch.

“People love to be programmed — they like to come home, put their keys down, turn on the TV and zone out,” Ryan said in the interview.

Now, Ryan wants to bring that same type of programming to Paramount Plus (previously CBS All Access), the company’s crown jewel in its vast portfolio of streaming services.

Paramount Plus has a lot of content from nearly a dozen media brands that fall under the ViacomCBS umbrella, including CBS, BET, CMT, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Pictures, Smithsonian Channel TV Land and VH1. Some of thsoe brands have subsidiary organizations — CBS, for instance, produces content under the CBS Sports and CBS News brands, while Nickelodeon operates a handful of digital cable brands, including Teen Nick and Nick Jr.

The sheer amount of stuff can be overwhelming for a user to sift through, especially considering ViacomCBS has ambitious plans to produce its own original content for Paramount Plus and license TV shows and movies from third parties (including movies from Epix, which are set to hit the service later this summer).

In recent weeks, the company has used Pluto TV as a barker channel to draw customer interest in Paramount Plus, offering a “Paramount Picks” stream that includes a handful of TV shows and movies one might find if they subscribed to the $5 a month service (or $10 a month without ads). But that doesn’t necessarily help people who already have a subscription find content within Paramount Plus itself, especially since users have to leave Paramount Plus and go to Pluto TV to access the Paramount Picks channel.

For this reason, the company is developing new genre-based linear channels that will exist within Paramount Plus that will resemble the channels found on Pluto TV.

“Linear, interest-based channels, like we pioneered with Pluto TV, are coming to Paramount Plus,” Ryan said. “We want to make it really easy for people to find content that they  love, and so we’re going to innovate on features that allow people to discover and enjoy content quickly — I think that’s one of the keys to our success.”

Ryan said the entire streaming division of the company is focused on providing features that will help users discover more content on Paramount Plus and other streaming services offered by ViacomCBS, including Pluto TV, Showtime and BET Plus.

“The entire team is rallying around this desire to take this treasure trove of content that we’re bringing to market and make it easy for consumers to discover and enjoy,” Ryan said.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is a nationally-recognized, award-winning journalist who has covered the business of media, technology, radio and television for more than 10 years. He is the publisher of The Desk and contributes to Know Techie, Digital Content Next and StreamTV Insider. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, the Walt Disney Company, McNaughton Newspapers and Tribune Broadcasting.
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