Pluto and the several other California companies reimagining the experience of watching videos made for the Web are unlikely to unseat YouTube any time soon. But the competition is welcome news to the fast-growing online video community.
?YouTube has blown the door open for mainstream consumption of online video,? said Pluto Chief Executive Tom Ryan. ?But by curating the best of the Web and delivering that in a familiar experience across any device, we?re able to become one of the preeminent video apps.?
Pluto is designed as a channel guide for the Web. A video ? often embedded from YouTube ? starts playing when the interface is loaded, providing ?white noise? during channel surfing like a TV does but YouTube proper doesn?t.
Pluto.TV created more than 100 channels, and about 15 employees wander the Web deciding what to air on them. Nickelodeon might run shows geared to 3-year-olds in the morning and pre-teens in the afternoon. But Pluto.TV constantly runs a handful of children?s programming channels with each one aimed at a different demographic.
Pluto?s channels cover music videos, news reports, action sports and video game commentary. Channels also play just comedy skits or real estate videos or lifestyle and fashion content. To traditional regional TV providers, some of the channels might seem like they target a tiny, niche audience. But on a global basis, they?re big, Pluto contends.
Temporary channels, activated for tributes to comedian Robin Williams after his death or for New York Fashion Week, have drawn ?staggeringly high viewership,? Ryan said.
He added that the company is seeing ?great adoption? overall but declined to discuss specific usage figures. Still, content makers are excited enough about Pluto?s prospects to sign direct and sometimes exclusive distribution deals as opposed to having Pluto pull their content from YouTube.
Programs on Pluto must be consumed live or ?DVR?ed.? Enamored by the set programming schedule, some companies have turned to Pluto to premiere or air specials. Exclusives have included coverage of this year?s Comic Con pop culture convention, the 2014 Asian Games sporting event and a marathon of online sitcom ?Real Adult Feelings.?
Using human curators gives Pluto, named after the underdog ?planet,? an elite feel that?s appealing to content owners, Ryan said. He?s not a fan of using just social recommendations or algorithms to unearth quality content.
?We?re creating channels like a studio, and we?re programming channels like a network and aggregating audience like a cable operator,? Ryan said. ?We can?t be good at all of those things at scale, so we?re focusing on one and three and partnering with the best programmers.?