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Pluto TV Joins the Big Leagues

Astronomers may not have much love for Pluto the planet, but the ratings scientists at Nielsen have just awarded a big upgrade to free streamer Pluto TV. For the first time ever, the Paramount-owned platform has shown up on The Gauge, Nielsen’s monthly scouting report sizing up the state of the US TV universe. The metric tracks viewership which takes place on connected TV sets (so no mobile viewing), and while almost all major platforms get measured, Nielsen only breaks out services by name if they account for one percent or more of overall TV usage during a given month . Pluto did just that in September, beating rivals such as Tubi, The Roku Channel, and Xumo to become the first free, ad-supported (FAST) streamer to migrate from Nielsen’s “other” category to a spot among the most popular streamers overall.

Interestingly, Pluto landed on the Gauge even though some very well-funded subscription streamers – including Peacock, Apple TV + and its sibling service, Paramount + – did not generate enough consumption on TV sets to reach the one percent milestone last month. That’s partially a result of those other platforms not being as broadly distributed: Pluto TV had nearly 70 million monthly active users as of August, which is more than double that of, for example, Peacock (28 million at last count). And unlike Pluto, which is entirely dependent on ad revenue (and thus viewership) to drive profits, streamers such as P + and Peacock generate significant cash from monthly subscription fees, supplementing what they make from selling commercial time. In other words, the fact that those other streamers haven’t yet gotten to the one percent mark doesn’t necessarily mean they’re less successful overall than Pluto. They’re just not getting watched as often.

As for the rest of the Gauge, Google-owned YouTube surpassed Netflix to rank as the most-watched individual platform in September, accounting for 8 percent of all TV consumption last month (up from 7.6 percent in August). Netflix, which had tied with YouTube in August, fell to second place (7.3 percent). Nielsen says third-place Hulu had its biggest-ever share of the streaming pie in September, with 3.8 percent of connected TV viewing. Both YouTube and Hulu got a boost from their respective live TV services, which no doubt saw increased traffic from the start of the broadcast TV season and the return of the NFL. What’s more, Nielsen is also now counting viewership from digital DVR usage up to a week after a linear series debuts, a move the company says resulted in one percent of overall US consumption moving from the “other” category ”to individual platforms.

Elsewhere, Nielsen says that while Amazon’s overall share of viewing remained flat last month at a 2.9 percent share, overall usage was up nearly 35 percent vs. September 2021, no doubt thanks to Thursday Night Football and the launch of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power. Similarly, the ratings service says HBO Max saw its share of the viewing pie (1.3 percent) jump 10% month-to-month due to House of the Dragon and audiences re-watching game of Thrones. It was the biggest monthly rise of any platform mentioned in this month’s report. The streamer, whose content also gets a significant amount of viewership via the HBO cable networks, still ranked below Disney +, which was flat month-to-month with a 1.9 percent share.

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