You may have heard about the recent crackdown on a popular Pluto TV playlist. As a fellow cord-cutter myself, I wanted to break down exactly what happened and what it means for free streaming. Grab a snack and let‘s unravel this situation together!
Pluto TV has exploded into one of the top free streaming services with over 70 million monthly active users. They offer over 300 live TV channels along with thousands of movies and shows available on-demand.
It works similar to cable or satellite, just without the outrageous fees. Pluto TV handles all the licensing and agreements with content partners and displays the channels in a channel guide through their app. Pretty sweet deal right?
Well Pluto TV M3U playlists started circulating that essentially unlocked all of Pluto‘s streams to be used in unauthorized third-party apps. And the Motion Picture Association was none too happy about it.
What is an M3U Playlist?
First question you may have is, what the heck is an M3U playlist? I had the same question when I first heard about them.
An M3U is a plain text file that contains URLs and metadata pointing to media content online. It‘s just a way for apps to organize and access streams from various sources.
They‘ve been used for years to add live TV and video on-demand sources into media players. Popular IPTV apps like Tivimate, Smarters, and Perfect Player utilize M3U playlists.
Users can find shared M3U lists online to instantly add tons of live TV channels without any service subscription. And that‘s where things get legally questionable…
Unlike torrents that distribute actual copyrighted content, M3U lists simply organize links. But rights holders argue they encourage piracy at scale by clustering unlicensed streams.
Which leads us back to Pluto TV…
The Pluto TV Channel List
Pluto TV‘s content library is quite impressive for a free service. They offer 300+ channels spanning:
- Premium Movie Networks like Paramount Movie Channel, Action Movies, Horror, Comedy, etc.
- Popular Kids Channels like Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., NickToons
- News from CBS, CNN, Cheddar, NBC, Bloomberg
- Sports including NFL, MLB, PGA Tour, Stadium, Fight Channel
- And so much more! Check out the full channel list.
Accessing all this for free through their app seems too good to be true. Turns out, it kinda is…
Pluto TV‘s business model is largely built on tracking and analytics. Their app requests access to mobile ad identifiers and account registration provides additional profiling of viewership data.
This data enables targeted advertising opportunities and helps Pluto TV quantify audience size/engagement to their content partners. More eyeballs and data, more potential revenue.
Now enter the infamous Pluto TV M3U playlist shared by @Mart1nho. This unlocked all of Pluto‘s streams to be used anonymously in any IPTV app.
No mobile ad IDs collected, no account registration required. Just all the content stripped away from Pluto TV‘s platform and oversight.
You can probably see where there‘s tension here…
The MPA Cracks Down
The Motion Picture Association (MPA) lobbied GitHub to remove the Pluto TV M3U list saying:
"The Playlist…is used to engage in massive infringement of copyrighted motion pictures and television shows.”
Despite Pluto‘s app itself being 100% legal, the MPA argues this specific playlist enables unlicensed distribution of content outside Pluto‘s control.
This dehydrogenizes Pluto TV‘s viewer tracking and account registration used to generate revenue. So despite being free, it still undermines their business model.
And this isn‘t the first time the MPA has targeted streaming piracy:
- 2022: MPA sought removal of over 5,000 illegal streaming apps from Roku Channel Store
- 2021: YoutTube ripped for hosting illegal soccer and TV streams
- 2019: Twitch warned to address illegal movie and TV streams
Rights holders like the MPA are playing an endless game of whack-a-mole as new streaming piracy platforms and apps constantly emerge.
As soon as one source is shut down, countless alternatives pop up. But the MPA will keep trying to protect its interests.
Where To Find The Pluto TV M3U List
Despite removal from GitHub, the Pluto TV playlist is surely living on across the web. But I‘ll save you some searching – it‘s not worth the hassle or risks.
While Pluto TV streams are public, using them outside of their own app may constitute copyright infringement based on the MPA‘s stance.
Your best bet is to just enjoy Pluto TV as intended through their official mobile apps for your Apple TV, Firestick, phone, etc.
You get the same free TV channels and on-demand movies/shows without any piracy grey areas. Just have to tolerate the account and tracking. Hey, nothing‘s ever 100% perfect!
What This All Means For Cord Cutters
Stepping back, this situation highlights an ongoing struggle between rights holders, streaming platforms, and consumers.
On one hand, services like Pluto TV are praised for offering cable alternatives and free content supported by ads and tracking.
But anything circumventing platforms‘ control and monetization strategies will be swiftly opposed, whether it seems "pirated" or not.
As cord-cutters, we‘re caught in the middle of these battles between media giants and copyright law. Our options include:
- Access content through fully-licensed platforms like Pluto TV‘s app, even if we sacrifice some privacy
- Seek out unauthorized sources like playlists and streaming sites in legal gray areas
- Stick to completely legal sources like over-the-air antenna channels
There‘s no universally "right" choice. We each have to balance affordability, variety, quality, and legality in deciding how to stream.
But the dust around Pluto TV‘s situation shows the importance of using licensed platforms properly within their terms if we want services like it to stick around.
Well I think that about covers it! Let me know if you have any other questions. I‘m always happy to chat more about streaming. Talk soon!