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Viacom Has Acquired Pluto TV Streaming Service for $340 Million

Viacom has acquired Los Angeles-based video streaming service Pluto TV for $340 million in cash, both companies confirmed Tuesday.

“Today marks an important step forward in Viacom’s evolution, as we work to move both our company and the industry forward,” said Viacom CEO Bob Bakish in a statement. “Pluto TV’s unique and market-leading product, combined with Viacom’s brands, content, advanced advertising capabilities and global scale, creates a great opportunity for consumers, partners and Viacom.”

The deal is expected to close in the first quarter, and Viacom plans to run Pluto as an independent subsidiary going forward. Pluto TV CEO Tom Ryan will stay on as the head of the subsidiary, according to Tuesday’s release.

Pluto TV is one of a handful of budding ad-supported streaming services. The company has been specializing in a linear-like experience, presenting live streams next to scheduled OTT programming in a grid-like electronic programming guide. It attracts more than 12 million users a month, according to Tuesday’s announcement.

Pluto has been streaming video through its own apps, and has struck partnerships with smart TV manufacturers to directly integrate into their devices. One example for this is the company’s partnership with Vizio, which has Pluto powering Vizio’s WatchFree streaming service. More than 60% of the company’s audience watches the service on connected TVs.

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Viacom now wants to use Pluto to monetize its library content through ad-supported streaming, as well as give additional distribution to content from its Viacom Digital Studios subsidiary. The media company plans for Pluto to remain free, and use the platform to further promote its paid digital services, including Noggin and Comedy Central Now.

Viacom was quick to assure pay TV operators Tuesday that it has no plans to change the distribution strategy for its core assets, which include TV networks like Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and MTV. Instead, the company plans to give operators a chance to distribute Pluto as a value-add to its broadband-only subscribers.

Pluto TV had raised around $52 million in funding, with funders including Scripps Network, Samsung Ventures, Sky and U.S. Venture Partners.

Viacom had been in talks with multiple ad-supported streaming services, including Pluto TV and Tubi, about a possible acquisition for some time. The Pluto acquisition comes about half a year after Viacom acquired AwesomenessTV from Verizon. That acquisition was followed by some significant cost-cutting, with Viacom laying off around 100 employees just a month later.

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