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Strictly Business Podcast: Pluto TV’s Tom Ryan on the Power of Free OTT

Pluto TV isn’t concerned about the growing number of cord-cutting consumers seeking content via paid streaming options.

In this week’s episode of the Variety podcast “Strictly Business,” Pluto CEO Tom Ryan expressed his faith in the OTT service, which delivers hundreds of channels to more than 6 million users for free.

“We are one of many players, but I think we’re quite a differentiated player,” Ryan said. “When we launched the service live in 2014, everyone said, ‘Everything is going on-demand, and subscription is the only way to do it.’ We had a different opinion about delivering a programmed, linear-ized experience — or leading with it at least — and also going free, which we also saw as an underappreciated opportunity.”

Pluto TV offers a mix of channels that span multiple networks — like News 24/7, which aggregates different networks’ takes on news stories — as well as content from singular networks like NBC or Scripps. While Ryan advocated for the consumer appeal of having options, he also acknowledged the decreasing popularity of linear programming.

“Anyone listening to this podcast is probably familiar with the acceleration in cord-cutting, and perhaps even more serious is the fact that lots of younger people are not connecting the cord to begin with,” Ryan said.

Pluto is trying to capitalize on this trend — by offering free linear programming on mobile platforms — while sticking to the belief that channel surfing is human nature.

“One of the misconceptions over the past few years is that everything’s moving to on-demand, and one of our core theses is actually that the linear use — the programmed use case — is alive and well and will remain alive and well in the digital space because people fundamentally want to be programmed to.”

Strictly Business” is Variety‘s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of entertainment. Listen to the podcast below for the full interview, or check out previous “Strictly Business” episodes featuring comedian/actor/producer Kevin Hart, ICM Partners agent Esther Newberg, and HBO chairman/CEO Richard Plepler. A new episode debuts each Tuesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, and SoundCloud.

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