Pluto TV, an L.A.-based video streaming startup targeting cord cutters, has just made a significant new hire: the company is bringing on Ken Parks, previously the chief content officer at Spotify, to serve as Pluto TV’s executive chairman.
Working out of New York, Parks will be tasked with leading Pluto TV’s content, distribution and monetization efforts going forward, among other things. However, he will remain a special adviser to Spotify founder and CEO Daniel Ek following his departure from the streaming music service.
Parks had worked with Spotify since 2007 and was the company’s first U.S. employee. During his time with the company, he oversaw music industry negotiations and relationships, and led Spotify’s expansion into video and originals. That same skill set will be useful at Pluto TV going forward, as it too will be involved in similar negotiations with video content providers as Pluto TV attempts to forge distribution deals.
Though not a household name, Pluto TV has been an interesting service to watch – if something of an underdog in an industry where companies like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu today dominate. The startup has been working to capitalize on consumers’ shift away from pricey cable TV packages in favor of online streaming content they can watch on a multitude of devices.
On Pluto TV, the company aggregates videos from a variety of sources, like YouTube, Vimeo, Dailymotion, Funny or Die and more, then organizes that content into categories like music, sports, entertainment, comedy, lifestyle, tech, education, kids and others. It even presents it in an interface that’s much like a traditional TV guide. (This, I think, is not as appealing to the cord cutters/”cord-nevers,” who are actively moving away from cable TV’s overwhelming number of channels and cluttered interface. Pluto TV mimics that, as if all we wanted was cross-platform cable TV with the accompanying monthly bill.)
Still, the core idea behind Pluto TV – that users could build a personalized lineup of favorite “shows” from this vast array of online content – has some appeal. And Parks’ hire speaks to the company’s broader ambitions to offer higher-quality, mainstream fare in the future. The kind it will need to negotiate hard to get.
The company recently signed a distribution deal with Hulu as one example of how it’s trying to broaden its selection of more popular programming. The deal granted Pluto TV access to Hulu’s free content, both new and old, from networks like ABC, NBC and Fox. Pluto TV users can watch Hulu’s shows and view Hulu’s ads. Hulu had done deals similar to this with MSN, Yahoo and AOL previously.
“The addition of a world-class executive like Ken Parks to Pluto TV is a transformative moment for our company. Ken’s experience in building a successful global entertainment service will be invaluable to us as we capitalize on our strong momentum to rapidly grow Pluto TV,” said Tom Ryan, co-founder and CEO of Pluto TV, in a statement. “With Ken’s expertise, Pluto TV is ready to deliver the best digital TV platform for consumers.”
Parks was previously an adviser to Pluto TV (since 2014) before moving into this new position. He will run the company’s new East Coast office in New York, but will also travel back and forth to its L.A. headquarters.
“I believe Pluto TV has an enormous opportunity to define the future of television and online video,” said Parks. “The timing is perfect for Pluto TV to reach massive global scale and become one of the premier consumer video platforms in the world.”
Pluto TV is backed by over $13 million from USVP and others.