nScreenMedia OTT multiscreen media analysis

Free online linear TV increasing, boosts casual viewing

Pluto TV

Does the success of Netflix mean the world is moving to on-demand all the time?  Hulu and Pluto TV don’t think so. In their new agreement content that started life on a linear channel and then moved to on-demand online is returning to the linear format online.

Hulu announced an unusual agreement with Pluto TV, the startup focused on bringing free ad supported linear channels to connected devices over the web. Hulu has licensed much of the content that is available free at the site (without a subscription) to Pluto for distribution in custom linear channels. For example, there is a channel called Comedy Catchup with content from The Daily Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live. Other channels include Star Trek, I Love Lucy and The Twilight Zone.

The channels on Pluto are programmed exactly like on regular TV. Users access them through a traditional linear guide, the shows play on a regular schedule, and ad breaks show up where you’d expect them.

The new channels on Pluto TV are available through the company’s website, and via the many mobile apps Pluto provides for connected devices. One place you can’t watch them is on TV. Pluto’s Roku app will not include the Hulu powered channels. This is the same situation with Hulu too. You cannot watch the free content on Hulu on a connected television through the company’s smart TV and streaming media player apps without subscribing.

The Hulu content plays on Pluto through the Hulu player. That means all the ads provided in the content are served by Hulu, though Pluto does share in the incremental ad revenue it generates.

The deal is a win for both companies. Hulu gains more eyeballs for its advertising, Pluto gets a little ad revenue boost and it can use the premium TV content to attract new users.

Tom Ryan, the CEO of Pluto TV, is understandably enthusiastic about the deal:

We’re big admirers of Hulu and thrilled to be working with them to deliver their amazing content in a curated channel format to Pluto’s viewers. Our promise is to combine traditional and digital content in a lean-back TV experience and this partnership goes a long way to deliver on that promise.”

Taking TV on-demand assets and remixing them into themed, ad supported channels could be a new trend. Crackle started doing the same thing last month with the release of the new Roku Crackle app. Now when the app starts one of these themed channels plays by default, and there are others from which viewers can select. The company hopes it will help users discover more of the content available on Crackle.

This is good news for the online video advertising industry, which has complained about the dearth of premium content against which it can place ads. So much online viewing is locked up in ad-free services such as Netflix and Amazon. This is also good news for online video views. The Pluto and Crackle approach means there is more quality free content available for casual viewing.

Why it matters

The success of Netflix has led people to believe that most viewing online will be on-demand and without ads.

Pluto TV+Hulu and Crackle are putting that idea to the test with new ad supported free online linear TV services.

This is good news for advertisers as they will see an expansion in quality inventory against which they can place ads.

It’s also good news for viewers who can now find more free TV online for casual viewing.

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