Pluto TV is essential for broke cord-cutters

If you’re looking for live TV streaming options online, you have no shortage of options: Hulu with Live TV, Sling TV, DirecTV Now, YouTube TV, and FuboTV each offer a variety of channels and packages with their own perks. But if you want to live stream TV for free, there’s only one option: Pluto TV.

Pluto TV is a free internet TV service that provides users with the same sort of experience provided to subscribers of paid streaming services like Sling, Fubo, and Hulu. Pluto doesn’t offer you all the channels you might expect from a streaming service, but you will see a lot of familiar options alongside some upstart channels you’ve never heard of before. 

Here’s everything you need to know to get started:


Pluto TV plans and pricing

 While most streaming services make most of their money with subscriptions, Pluto TV pays the bills with advertisements that run during their programming. Surprisingly, Pluto isn’t inundated with ads, featuring basically the same amount you would expect on broadcast TV.


How to sign up for Pluto TV

While you can just navigate to the Pluto TV website and watch, you can also create an account with an email address quickly and stream on a number of different devices. Here are the simple directions for how to sign up:

  1. Visit this page.
  2. Enter your email address.
  3. Then, enter the password that you want to use.
  4. Then, insert the year you were born.
  5. Finally, click “Create Account.”

You’ll then have the ability to customize your channel display and specify what devices you use.


Pluto TV devices

No matter how you connect to the internet, you can watch Pluto TV. There’s an app for Windows and Mac on desktop, and both Android and iOS on mobile. You can also download the Pluto TV app for select smart TVs from Vizio, Samsung, Sony, and more.

pluto tv on roku Roku

Here’s the list of available devices as of January 2020: 

  • iOS mobile & tablet
  • Android mobile & tablet
  • Android TV (various)
  • Google Chromecast
  • Chrome Web App
  • Amazon Kindle/Fire Tablets
  • Amazon Fire Tv + Fire Tv Stick
  • Roku Devices + Roku TV
  • Apple TV (4th Generation)

 

I tested the browser, desktop, Roku, and iOS versions of the Pluto TV app. Of them, Roku works the best, but each one provided a clear picture without skips and jumps.  

It’s also possible to activate your smartphone as a remote on certain devices, including on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and Android TV.

If you have one of the above devices, activation can be accessed by following these steps.

  • Visit Channel 02 on the guide or click “Activate” on the left side of the guide
  • You’ll see a six-digit code displayed at the top of the screen
  • There are two ways to enter that code, depending on your account and device
  • Logged in: click “MyPluto” on your phone > activate > enter digit code
  • Logged out / No account: Visit My.Pluto.Tv/activate and follow prompts


What is on Pluto TV?

Once you start to dig around, there’s actually plenty to discover on Pluto TV. And it’s easier than you might think. 

Beyond the price, Pluto’s best feature is how familiar it is. Utilizing cable’s familiar grid-style channel guide makes it easy for new users to jump right into Pluto TV.

Pluto TV divides its content into blocks of channels. Those are organized by categories, including Movies, Entertainment, News, Binge Watch, Comedy, Sports, Explore, Life + Style, Tech + Geek, Kids, Latino, Music, and a block of Featured channels that leads the grid. These blocks are mostly made of great channels you’ve never heard of. There are some familiar surprises, like the feeds for CBSN, NBC News, CNN, Fox Sports, and Impact Wrestling. In November 2018, Pluto TV gave an overhaul to its channel lineup and user interface, making it easier to navigate and a lot easier on the eyes. 

 

new channels on Pluto TV Pluto TV

Beyond those marquee names, you’ll need to learn which of the hundred-plus Pluto TV channels meet your interests. Thankfully, Pluto’s channels make it clear exactly what you’re in for in their names. If you want a martial arts movie, tune into Flicks of Fury, while horror hounds will want to stop by Horror 24/7. Fight serves up pummeling MMA action all day long, while the NFL Channel and Major League Soccer’s channel allows fans of those sports to do deep dives. Binge Watch is appropriately named, inviting viewers to go on a Doctor Who marathon, a RuPaul’s Drag Race marathon, or visit the RiffTrax and MST3k channels to mock movies.

Whether you’re a news junkie, movie historian, foodie, science nerd, or sports fan, Pluto TV has something to strike your interest. The Entertainment section showcases a mix of reality TV, movies, classic cartoons, and true-crime shows. During my testing period, I found classic movies like There Will Be Blood, studio hits like Shutter Island, and copious episodes of No Reservations With Anthony Bourdain. Food TV will never replace your beloved Food Network, but for free TV, it provides a lovely alternative when you’re on a budget.

In November 2019, Pluto TV announced a multiyear deal with the Discovery, Inc. that will lead to a channel that’s essentially a best-of collection from the network, culling your favorite programs from Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, ID, Discovery Life, Science Channel, and TLC.

Parents will also appreciate the multiple channels of programming for children, including educational shows. Pluto even offers a host of internet music stations to listen to via Dash Radio.

Picture quality is for the most part very good. Channels that show public domain movies have the worst quality, but the majority of these channels feature at least 720p picture. For a free compromise, Pluto TV can often make you forget it isn’t the real thing.

News

TV Election 2020 Today’s Top Story TV News
NBC News CBSN CBSN New York
CBS Los Angeles CNN The First
Today Weather Nation Bloomberg
Cheddar News Top Stories by Newsy Newsmax TV
TYT Netowrk Sky News RT America
Court TV

Pluto TV channels list News Pluto TV

Sports

Pluto TV Sports Fox Sports NFL Channel
PGA Tour Major League Soccer Stadium
TV Surf TV Winter Sports Red Bull TV
Pursuit Up Fight Glory Kickboxing
Impact Wrestling Sports Grid Eleven Sports
TYT Netowrk Sky News RT America
Big Sky Conference

Pluto TV channel list Sports Pluto TV

Movies

TV Spotlight Pluto TV Movies Pluto TV Movies 2
TV Action TV Comedy TV Romance
TV Drama TV Horror TV Terror
TV Thrillers Black Cinema TV Documentaries
TV Indies Paramount Movie Channel CMT Westerns
Classic Movies 80s Rewind TV Cult Films
Flicks of Fury The Asylum Gravitas Movies

Pluto TV movies Pluto TV

Comedy

Comedy Central Pluto TV Comedy Central Stand-Up Wild’n Out
Tosh.O Crank Yankers TV Land Sitcoms
Funny AF Stand Up TV Cats 24/7
Dogs 24/7 The Pet Collective Inter Net Gold
Fail Army

Pluto TV channels comedy Pluto TV

Tech + Geek

TV SciFi TV Science TV Tech
TV Gamer 4K TV Naruto
Anime All Day C|Net IGN
NASA TV Minecraft TV Gameplay Roblox

pluto tv channels - geek and gaming Pluto

Entertainment

MTV Pluto TV MTV Dating MTV Teen
ET Live VH1 I Love Reality VH1 Hip Hop Family
BET Pluto TV BET Her Pluto TV Spike Pluto TV
Spike Outdoors American Gladiators Baywatch
TV Land Drama TV Animals Crime Network
CMT Pluto TV TV Celebrity TV Reality
TV Lives Nosey Fuse
Complex Awesomeness TV Degrassi
British TV Classic TV Buzzr
Shout! TV Classic Toons

Pluto TV channels Entertainment Pluto TV

Life + Style

Food TV Lively Place Frontdoor
MTV Cribs TV Her TV Her Dramas
Logo Pluto TV MTV Are You the One? TV Weddings
Faith TV TBN Hillsong Channel
People TV

Pluto TV channels Life & Style Pluto TV

 

Binge Watch

The Addams Family MTV Guy Code MTV The Hills
VH1 Love and Hip Hop MTV The Challenge VH1 Black Ink Crew
VH1 RuPaul’s Drag Race CMT Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders Unsolved Mysteries
Forensic Files The New Detectives Cold Case Files
Fear Factor Leverage Criss Angel: Mindfreak
Dog the Bounty Hunter Hell’s Kitchen WPT
This Old House Antiques Roadshow UK Doctor Who Classic
Midsomer Murders Wipeout MST3K
Rifftrax

Pluto TV Binge Watch channels


Pluto TV local channels

While Pluto TV doesn’t offer local channels, viewers in Los Angeles and New York can access local CBS affiliate news feeds for those markets in the News section.


Pluto TV add-ons

While Pluto TV doesn’t offer add-ons; again, with the service being free, supplementing this with HBO Go for $15 a month could go a long way toward keeping you entertained.


Pluto TV DVR and multiple screens

Pluto TV lacks DVR or multiple screen capabilities, though considering a free service where you can easily log in and watch, that’s not the deal breaker that it might be for a paid service.


Pluto TV on-demand catalog

Pluto TV also comes with an impressive on-demand catalog. I was able to watch old episodes of Bizarre Foods With Andrew Zimmern, Death Note, House Hunters and the trash classic Flavor of Love without a hiccup. Pluto’s on-demand movie selection is a more mixed bag. You’ll find Hollywood blockbusters like Clear and Present Danger or Valkyrie living alongside direct-to-DVD titles like American Warships. Treasure awaits those who search for it. Digging through Pluto TV’s catalog uncovered classics like Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke, and more. 

Note: Not all devices support Pluto’s on-demand content. I couldn’t use it on my web browser using Chrome or the desktop app,  but my tests found it worked on the Roku, iOS, and Apple TV.


Pluto TV vs. The Competition

Pluto TV vs. Philo

Though Pluto TV’s not quite like anything else out there, Philo’s probably closest to Pluto TV in what it offers, with 59 entertainment-focused channels for just $20 a month. Like Philo, Pluto TV has a considerable on-demand catalog of movies and shows. However, whereas Philo offers an array of entertainment channels as they appear on cable or other streaming services, Pluto’s got a more curated experience and relies on advertising for revenue. But Pluto does have Philo beat when it comes to news and sports.

Pluto TV vs. WatchTV 

WatchTV is also in the neighborhood of what Philo offers. At just $15 per month for 35+ channels, WatchTV is a pretty great deal. But, like Pluto, WatchTV doesn’t include cloud DVR or multiple screens. If you’re living on a budget and not sharing your streaming service, or you don’t need DVR, WatchTV is a solid choice, and might be your right-priced supplement to Pluto TV.

Pluto TV vs. Sling TV

Sling TV was the first budget streaming TV solution on the market. Though its price has gone up over time, it still could be the streaming experience you’re looking for to accompany Pluto TV. Sling TV comes in three packages, Orange, Blue, and Orange + Blue. The 32-channel Orange and the 47-channel Blue packages each cost $30 per month, while the 53-channel Orange + Blue package is $45.

Sling TV offers a well-rounded package of channels for the price; for instance, it includes ESPN, which isn’t a given on all services. Sling TV also includes local channels in your lineup, meaning that its Orange or Blue packages might just deliver the budget-priced cable of your dreams.


Pluto TV: Is it worth it? 

Pluto TV shines because it accepts what it is and strives to make that great. The service offers a diverse range of content for free and doesn’t ruin it with too many ads. It’s obvious from the amount of action, stoner, and extreme sports content that this is service is currently aimed at college-age viewers. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check Pluto TV out if you aren’t in that demographic.

pluto tv channel guide Photo via Pluto TV

Over the hours I tested the service, the plucky nature of its content grew on me. We all have ingrained biases about free content, but Pluto TV puts forth a first-rate product. Its menus are easy to navigate and clear, so you can always find something that’s right for you. Even areas I never anticipated checking out managed to pull me in for a few episodes. Part of the fun is discovering content you never thought you’d watch. 

Pluto TV won’t replace your beloved Hulu or Netflix, but if you can’t afford those services, this is a great alternative. We pay to use plenty of services each month, but Pluto is keeping a place in my Roku library. 

New to cord-cutting? Here are our picks for the best movie streaming sites of 2019 and free live TV apps and channels. If you’re looking for premium services, here’s how to watch HBO, Showtime, and Starz online. Want a specific channel? Here’s how to stream A&E, AMC, Animal Planet, BBC, Bravo, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, CNN, CNBC, C-SPAN, Comedy Central, the CW, Discovery, Disney Channel, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNU, Food Network, Fox News, Freeform, FS1 and FS2, FX, Golf Channel, Hallmark, HGTV, History Channel, HLN, Lifetime, MSNBC, MTV, National Geographic, NBA TV, Nickelodeon, PBS, Sundance TV, Syfy, TBS, Tennis Channel, TLC, TNT, the Weather Channel, Willow, VH1, and NFL RedZone without cable, as well as free movies on YouTube. If you’re on the move, here’s how to watch Fox Sports Go and live stream NBC Sports.

John-Michael Bond

John-Michael Bond

John-Michael Bond is a tech reporter and culture writer for Daily Dot. A longtime cord-cutter and early adopter, he's an expert on streaming services (Hulu with Live TV), devices (Roku, Amazon Fire), and anime. A former staff writer for TUAW, he's knowledgeable on all things Apple and Android. You can also also find him regularly performing standup comedy in Los Angeles.