Pluto.tv launched back in March with curated channels of continuous Web video content presented through a familiar TV guide-like interface. For instance, a top music program collects YouTube and Vevo music videos from the latest chart-toppers and then plays them as a single program.
While the startup already supported Google’s Chromecast, this is the first time it has ventured into the connected TV space. Bringing Pluto.tv onto actual TV sets will pose an interesting challenge for the service. Much like broadcast television, Pluto.tv works best for me when I want to have something on in the background while I’m multitasking.
“Our app naturally lends itself really well to a large screen given all the HD content we have,” Pluto.tv CEO Tom Ryan said. “We serve as a great complement to the traditional channels you might get from a set-top box.”
There’s so much content out on the Web now that it’s easy to get overwhelmed when trying to decide what to watch. Pluto.tv aims to solve that by stepping away from the search box and offering instead an auto-playing combination of human curation and technology.
Ryan describes it as the difference between on-demand services and lean-back experiences. In the case of music, radio and Pandora let you passively discover music, while record stores and iTunes generally assume that you know what you’re looking for. In that sense, Pluto.tv is trying to be the Internet radio of video.
Even so, there’s a missed opportunity here on the personalization side, as Pluto.tv doesn’t yet have the kind of learning algorithms that can target what you specifically want to watch. The service does let you favorite channels that you enjoy and save specific playlists for later, but it relies on manual input.
At least for now, Pluto.tv has a big gap to fill. Market estimates suggest that the average consumer watches nine hours of Web video, 155 hours of live TV and 15 hours of time-shifted TV per month. Still, if Pluto.tv succeeds at recreating the type of passive viewing behavior that Americans have become accustomed to with cable TV, those numbers could swing the other way very quickly.
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