Viacom-owned digital TV platform Pluto TV today announced the launch of three new ‘pop-up’ channels each dedicated to a specific show; SpongeBob Squarepants, The Hills, and Teen Mom. The channels, which will be available in Germany and Austria, will each continuously run back-to-back episodes of each show, and are designed to appeal to the most dedicated fans.
“We are celebrating two major series events with The Hills and SpongeBob SquarePants coming to Pluto TV,” said Pluto TV’s managing director of Europe, Olivier Jollet. “Both hit shows are truly an asset to our line-up, with their fascinating and inspiring charm appealing to our audiences’ nostalgia, serving the perfect mix to binge-watch.”
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen “pop-up” channels. Temporary linear channels have been run on broadcast TV in the past. In the UK for example, the BBC has previously operated a temporary Olympics-dedicated channel, while Sony Pictures Television’s True Movies runs a Christmas themed channel each year.
But Pluto TV’s launch demonstrates the relative ease of setting up temporary channels in over-the-top (OTT) environments. Whereas the prime spots in traditional pay TV EPGs are typically dominated by the larger channels, OTT apps are more versatile in terms of new content and channels being promoted.
The channels have each been launched for a specific purpose – The Hills channel for example serves to promote the show’s upcoming reboot, while the SpongeBob channel celebrates the show’s 20th anniversary this year. While these might be big events on Viacom’s calendar, they’re hardly the same scale as the Olympic Games or Christmas – yet nonetheless Pluto TV is able to set up pop-up to serve these minor landmarks.
They also provide an interesting way for Viacom to distribute its non-linear shows online. Shows like SpongeBob Squarepants and Teen Mom don’t follow an overarching narrative across episodes – but rather each episode is its own self-contained story. As such a viewer wanting to watch SpongeBob may well not have a specific episode in mind, but could prefer to tune in to the dedicated linear channel and have that choice made for them.
Recent research from Nielsen outlined the potential value of this format. In its Total Audience Report released last month, Nielsen found that when US streaming service users know they want to watch something but don’t know exactly what they want to watch, their most common actions are to either tune into their favourite linear TV channels, or to scan through linear TV channels. Pop-up channels which cater to this desire to be served content, rather than having to choose it yourself, could help boost Pluto TV’s appeal.