Viacom Enters Streaming Market with Pluto TV Acquisition

Media company sees opportunity to monetize library, enhance reach of existing cable channels
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NEW YORK—Viacom has announced that it is acquiring Pluto TV, a five year-old free ad-supported streaming network for $340 million in cash.

Pluto was founded in 2013 and offers more than 100 channels and thousands of hours of on-demand content spanning television, movies, sports, news, gaming, etc. The network has established partnerships with more than 130 media companies including major film and television studios and a variety of digital content producers.

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It has more than 12 million monthly active users, 7.5 of whom are on connected TVs, and is also supported by all major streaming devices including Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV and Sony Playstation consoles as well as integrated into Samsung and Vizio smart TVs. Pluto says it has “also secured new distribution deals that will make the service available on tens of millions of additional devices in the coming months."

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With competitors such as AT&T, Disney and Comcast’s NBCUniversal planning to launch direct to consumer streaming services this year, Viacom—which doesn’t have any local broadcast stations or sports rights—will be able to use the acquisition monetize its content and help expand the universe for its cable channels—including Comedy Central and MTV—whose future existence could be threatened by cord-cutting and pay-TV subscriber losses.

“Today marks an important step forward in Viacom’s evolution, as we work to move both our company and the industry forward. Pluto TV’s unique and market-leading product, combined with Viacom’s brands, content, advanced advertising capabilities and global scale, creates a great opportunity for consumers, partners and Viacom,” said Bob Bakish, Viacom President and CEO. “As the video marketplace continues to segment, we see an opportunity to support the ecosystem in creating products at a broad range of price points, including free. To that end, we see significant white space in the ad-supported streaming market and are excited to work with the talented Pluto TV team, and a broad range of Viacom partners, to accelerate its growth in the U.S. and all over the world.” Viacom’s global footprint, portfolio of entertainment brands, deep content library and additional marketing resources will further enrich Pluto TV’s product and consumer experience and provide a clear roadmap for international expansion.

“Since our launch less than five years ago, and particularly over the past year, Pluto TV has enjoyed explosive growth and become the category leader in free streaming television," said Pluto TV CEO and Co-Founder Tom Ryan. "Viacom’s portfolio of global, iconic brands and IP, advanced advertising leadership and international reach will enable Pluto TV to grow even faster and become a major force in streaming TV worldwide. Viacom is the perfect partner to help us accomplish our mission of entertaining the planet.”

Ryan will continue to serve as CEO of Pluto TV, which will operate as an independent subsidiary of Viacom upon closing of the transaction. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2019 and is subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approval.