It started with Elmo. A little over a year ago, web entrepreneur Ilya Pozin was working on his computer with his two-year-old daughter perched in his lap. To keep her entertained, he was searching for online Sesame Street videos. He’d put one on, but after each one ended, his daughter would yell out, “More Elmo, Daddy!” — and Pozin would have to go on the hunt for another video. “I’m sitting there thinking, ‘Why am I having to DJ for her every three minutes?’” Pozin says, laughing. “I should be able to just throw on a channel for my daughter that plays videos she loves constantly.”
So he and co-founders Nick Grouf and Tom Ryan built a new web platform, Pluto.TV, to do just that. The platform, which launched today, March 31, essentially sifts through the millions of online videos available on Youtube and elsewhere, finds the best ones, and then put them into channels, and shows on those channels, that run 24/7. It’s like a cable menu for online video. So, for instance, if you’re really, really into cute cat videos (and let’s face it, who isn’t), you can click on Pluto’s Cats channel, and watch a curated list of the best of those — everything from shows on “Big Cats” to “Kitten Zone” — all.day.long., for free. You can also DVR stuff and invite friends via Facebook to watch videos with you (and chat about them) live.
Pluto is launching with just under 100 channels — everything from Funny or Die videos to TED talks, from classic movies to “fail” videos of guys making really stupid choices — plus lots of music videos. It’s also inviting a few famous folks to create their own shows in a series called “Primetime on Pluto.” First out of the gate is hip hop artist Nas, who will debut his 25 favorite albums in a show on the Hip Hop channel today.
Whether this thing takes off remains to be seen — and frankly, that’s up to y’all — but EW got a sneak peek at it a couple of weeks ago and it seems to have the potential, at least, to be a big deal. (The name, Pluto.TV, was inspired by the underdog former planet, which, Pozin says, “kind of got the short end of the stick. We wanted to bring it back and reinvent it.”) It doesn’t hurt that its small group of investors include heavy hitters like former Yahoo! and Warner Bros. chairman Terry Semel, and its advisors include Jamie Tarses, the former head of ABC’s entertainment division. “Will this be a success? I’m not nervous about that,” Pozin says. “My confidence is super high. I just can’t wait to show this to people.”
He already has one convert. A beta version of the platform has existed for awhile, and Pozin says his daughter, now 3, starts every morning by asking, “‘Daddy, can I watch animals on Pluto?” The platform, of course, does have several educational kids channels, so Pozin (and other parents) won’t have to DJ for their toddlers anymore. “We’re just stoked to get this thing out the door,” he says.