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Pluto TV is essential for broke cord-cutters

Pluto TV

It’s free live TV, no strings attached.

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, FuboTV, and PS Vue each offer a variety of channels and packages with their own perks. But if you want to watch free live TV, there’s only one option: Pluto TV. Here’s everything you need to know to get started, from the Pluto TV channel list to how Pluto TV works on Roku.

What is Pluto TV?

Pluto TV is a free internet TV service that provides users with the same sort of experience competitors lie Sling TV or DirecTV Now give. The difference is Pluto doesn’t offer you channels like Food Network or AMC. Instead, its collection of over 100 channels is drawn from sources known (Bloomberg) and upstart (Fight).

How does Pluto TV work?

Beyond the price, Pluto’s best feature is how familiar it is. Utilizing a familiar grid-style channels guide found on cable boxes for the last 20 years makes it easy to jump right into Pluto TV. 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.

what is pluto tv? Photo via Pluto TV

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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

Then there are all the streaming devices it supports, including RokuApple TVAmazon Fire TVAndroid TV, and Google Chromecas. Interestingly, Pluto TV is the only live TV streaming service on PlayStation 4. 

I tested the browser, desktop, PlayStation, 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.  

how does pluto tv work Photo via Pluto TV

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Pluto TV channels

There’s a reason Pluto TV is free, and it largely has to do with its channel selection. But once you start to dig around, there’s plenty to discover. 

Pluto TV divides its content into blocks of channels by categories, including News, Sports, Movies, Comedy, and “Chill Out.” 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/MSNBC, 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. 

pluto tv channels Pluto TV

pluto tv channel list 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 RiffTrax and MST3k each have their own channels to mock movies. Chill Out features mostly music and stoner comedy, and SLOW offers a 24-hour feed of stuff slowly going by. It’s incredibly soothing.

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, 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.   

Pluto TV channels list: News

  • Pluto TV Election (103)
  • Today’s Top Story (105)
  • News 24/7 (108)
  • CBSN 2 (109)
  • NBC News & MSNBC (110)
  • CNBC (111)
  • Cheddar (112)
  • The Young Turks (TYT) Network (116)
  • NewsmaxTV (121)
  • Newsy (127)
  • RT America (132)
  • Sky News (135)
  • Business News 24/7 (140)
  • Bloomberg TV (143)

Pluto TV channels list News Pluto TV

Pluto TV channels list: Sports

  • Pluto TV Sports (201)
  • Fox Sports (202)
  • Impact Wrestling (204)
  • Fight (205)
  • Stadium (207)
  • Sports News (231)
  • World Poker Tour (214)
  • Glory Kickboxing (215)
  • Big Sky Conference (230)
  • Weber State (235)
  • Montana (237)

Pluto TV channel list Sports Pluto TV

Pluto TV channels list: Movies

  • Pluto TV Movies (51)
  • Pluto TV Movies 2 (52)
  • Action Movies (54)
  • Flicks of Fury (57)
  • Horror 24/7 (59)
  • Classic Movies Channel (62)
  • Black Cinema (67)
  • Gravitas Movies (71)
  • The Asylum (71)

Pluto TV movies Pluto TV

Pluto TV channels list: Comedy

  • Funny AF (250)
  • JASH (252)
  • Stand-up TV (261)
  • MST3K (264)
  • RiffTrax (265)
  • FailArmy (267)
  • Cats 24/7 (268)
  • The Onion (269)
  • Cracked (272)
  • Pet Collective (273)

Pluto TV channels comedy Pluto TV

Pluto TV channels list: Geek + Gaming

  • The Feed (301)
  • Hive (304)
  • Anime All Day (322)
  • MinecrafTV (325)
  • IGN (330)
  • WHAM (332)
  • CNET (333)
  • Geek & Sundry (336)
  • Nerdist (341)

pluto tv channels - geek and gaming Pluto

Pluto TV channels list: Entertainment

  • Man Up (502)
  • Crime Network (504)
  • Forensic Files (Ch. 507)
  • Shout! Factory TV (512)
  • Classic TV (515)
  • Live Music Replay (517)
  • Kids TV (520)
  • After School Cartoons (526)
  • Classic Toons TV (531)
  • Awesomeness TV (534)
  • DramaFever (541)
  • WHAT?! (542)
  • Revry (543)

Pluto TV channels Entertainment Pluto TV

Pluto TV channels list: Life + Style

  • PeopleTV (602)
  • Clevver (605)
  • Popsugar (608)
  • LittleThings (609)
  • FrontDoor (615)
  • Adventure TV (619)
  • Food TV (621)

Pluto TV channels Life & Style Pluto TV

Pluto TV channels list: Curiosity

  • XiveTV (635)
  • ScienceTV (636)
  • DocuTV (638)
  • Law and Crime (640)
  • NASA TV (643)

Pluto TV channels Curiosity Pluto TV

Pluto TV channels list: Miscellaneous

  • Internet Gold (401)
  • Vibes (411)
  • Monstercat TV (418)
  • THC (420)
  • Eye Candy (426)
  • NatureVision (TV)
  • Slow TV (437)
  • 4K TV (439)

Pluto TV channels - chill out Pluto TV

Pluto TV on-demand

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, the desktop app, or a PlayStation 4, but my tests found it worked on the Roku, iOS, and Apple TV.

pluto tv channel guide Photo via Pluto TV

Pluto TV review: What makes it great

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.

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, like the Chill Out section, 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. After all, you never know when you’ll need to Chill Out for a few hours.

New to cord-cutting? Here are our picks for the best movie streaming sites of 2018 and free live TV apps and channels. If you’re looking for a specific channel, here’s how to watch HBO, Showtime, Starz, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, AMC, FX, Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, FS1, TBS, TNT, Golf Channel, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, Lifetime, PBS, the CW, BBC, CSPAN, NBA TV, MTV, the Weather Channel, 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 adapter, 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.