Pluto TV’s Head Of Programmatic Partnerships on Lockdown Growth, Cutting The Cable Cord And CTV’s Bright Future

Pluto TV — one of the fastest growing advertiser-supported video on demand (AVOD) services in the world — joined the UnrulyX premium publisher line-up at the start of the year.

We spoke to their Head of Programmatic Partnerships, Jeff Quandt, on the success the service has seen since lockdown, which kinds of content are resonating with viewers during the pandemic and his predictions on where he thinks the CTV space is headed.

Enjoy!

Q: How have you been working with Unruly?

We really kicked things off with Unruly around the time of the Tremor International acquisition, at the start of the year. We’ve seen tremendous growth in 2020 and I attribute a lot of this to our partnership. Unruly is our biggest success story in terms of new partners.

Prior to bringing Unruly on board, we were working with different companies and services that sat under the Tremor umbrella, but now they’re all rolled up into one comprehensive service, we’ve been able to really leverage everything and form a heavy and meaningful partnership.

Q: We recently carried out some research to find out how the CTV space has evolved since the beginning of the pandemic. What our study found was 65% of US consumers are now actively seeking free, ad-supported CTV options since the start of the Coronavirus. Have you seen a rise in viewership numbers since the start of the pandemic?

We absolutely have. As everyone got used to the new normal of staying at home, we saw our viewership really start to rise. A lot of people began coming to Pluto TV to get their news about the pandemic, as we host a range of news channels focussed on different viewpoints.

Once they had gotten their news fix, what we found is they then started exploring other content we have on the platform.

Q: What sort of content were they moving onto? Any channels in particular?

We’ve seen a large increase in viewership of our binge watch channels. For example, we have a channel devoted to Baywatch and a channel devoted to MTV’s The Challenge, which are both performing extremely well.

In the climate we’re currently living in, people want a breather and an escape from the constant barrage of bad news, and just want to be entertained. This is what these channels are offering people, and I believe it’s why we’ve seen such a rise in viewership numbers across these channels.

Q: Do you think these numbers will continue to grow as lockdown eases?

Our hope is that now people have discovered and are using Pluto TV, it’s become a part of their daily viewing and they will stay with us, even when they’re not spending as much time at home.

It’s still early days, but we’ve not seen a drop in usage since states across the US have begun to reopen from lockdown, which to me indicates that we are becoming a staple service and part of people’s everyday viewing.

Q: Do Pluto TV viewers use it as a complete replacement to linear/Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) services, or are they using it alongside these other channels?

Most viewers use Pluto as a complement to existing services. For example, they’ll use Pluto alongside Netflix, Disney+ and Hulu, which gives them enough variety to cut the cord on their cable subscriptions.

The one thing that does set us apart is we see viewers returning again and again for are our owned-and-operated channels, built and curated in-house, which are exclusive to Pluto TV, like Flicks of Fury, our channel devoted to kung-fu films!

Q: Our research also found that after seeing an ad on TV, compared to linear TV viewers, ad-supported CTV users are 71% more likely to tell a friend about a brand, 53% more likely to search for a brand and 52% more likely to buy a product. How does advertising work on Pluto TV?

It’s great to hear that these stats back up what we’ve been seeing. The pandemic has accelerated the shift in dollars from traditional linear to over-the-top (OTT), and I think once advertisers see the effectiveness and the reach that CTV advertising offers them over linear, there’s no going back.

We’ve always been a programmatic-first platform. Pluto TV has been around since 2014, and we’ve always worked with traditional DSPs and SSPs to monetize our audience programmatically.

We’re now in 25.6M households across the US, which gives us a large reach play, and we find many brands are using Pluto TV to complement both their linear and digital buys. For example, if they are buying on Hulu or some of the other OTT apps, we find Pluto TV really rounds out that media buy.

Q: How is your growth outside of the US going?

Last year we launched Pluto across Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the UK — and have seen amazing growth across all these markets.

The CTV space isn’t as fragmented in Europe as it is in the US, so we weren’t sure how Pluto TV would be received by European audiences. But we’ve seen viewers embracing it very quickly. I think the popularity of Netflix and the recent launches of Disney+ and Apple TV have helped spread awareness of the advantages that OTT services offer.

We also launched in Latin America earlier this year and are now live in all major South American and central American markets and we’re seeing exponential growth in both those markets.

Q: Do you have any predictions for where the CTV space is headed?

The CTV market rebounded quicker post-pandemic than other mediums within the digital space, and as a result, we’ve seen brands allocate more dollars to CTV campaigns.

There are also more entrants coming into the CTV space, so over time the offering is going to get more robust and advanced in terms of what content is offered. And I think this will be the catalyst for marketers to stop seeing CTV as a ‘let’s dip our toe in the water and future proof our marketing efforts’ piece, and more of a meaningful contribution towards the marketing mix.

Ultimately, viewership in the CTV space is going to continue to grow and with it we’ll continue to see a shift in advertising dollars, cementing CTV as a key focus for many more advertisers.

To find out more about working with Unruly, please get in touch.