Vizio is adding a new way to watch free, ad-supported TV programming to its TV sets: The company launched a new service dubbed WatchFree Wednesday that promises access to 100 channels, including programming from NBC / MSNBC, Fox Sports, MST3K and The Surf Channel.
WatchFree is powered by Pluto TV, an ad-supported streaming service that has been making this kind of programming available on a variety of platforms for some time. Programming supplied by Pluto will also include ad-supported movie channels, and the startup is looking to launch Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares and Unsolved Mysteries pop-up channels in the near future.
“WatchFree is a next-generation streaming service with an easy-to-navigate, cable-like interface that delivers creative and thoughtful content selections,” said Vizio CTO Bill Baxter.
“From hit TV shows to blockbuster movies, news, sports, lifestyle and more, WatchFree is a game changer for cord-cutting enthusiasts,” added Pluto CEO Tom Ryan.
WatchFree is rolling out to TVs featuring Vizio’s SmartCast operating system, which the company first launched in 2016. At the time, Vizio took the radical step to get rid of all on-screen apps, and instead relied entirely on Google’s Chromecast technology to control playback from mobile devices.
After negative reactions from consumers, Vizio once again added apps to its TV screens in 2017. WatchFree is now presented as a dedicated input on Vizio TVs, mimicking the way a cable box would appear on a TV.
This isn’t the first time a TV maker has closely integrated an ad-supported streaming service for a cable-like experience. LG has done something similar with Pluto competitor Xumo, which is also available on Vizio TVs.
Ryan sat down last month with Variety’s Strictly Business podcast for an interview about Pluto TV. Listen: