Pluto, a free online service owned by ViacomCBS Inc., has acquired the rights to “Narcos,” the popular drama about the Latin American drug trade.
Pluto acquired exclusive rights to the show on advertising-supported streaming for the next six months.
Securing the rights to one of Netflix’s most popular series is a rarity – and a win for Pluto, which prevailed after a competitive bidding process. Netflix has locked up rights to most of its original series for years to come to ensure they aren’t available anywhere else. But “Narcos” was one of its first shows and is owned by Gaumont SA, a French studio. The series will remain on Netflix, though with a bit less exclusive allure.
“Narcos” will add to a growing roster of popular and premium shows on Pluto, which is at the vanguard of a new crop of advertising-supported video platforms. A year after ViacomCBS bought Pluto, Fox Corp. acquired TubiTV and Comcast Corp. agreed to purchase Vudu, both of which are Pluto rivals.
Pluto offers dozens of live channels devoted to news, sports and comedy, as well as more than 100,000 hours of programming. The service has added dozens of TV shows and movies since ViacomCBS became its parent last year, including recent additions “The Twilight Zone” and “Star Trek: Enterprise.”
Pluto has boosted its overall user base to 33 million, as of the end of June, a 60% jump from the prior year. Average users are also spending more time watching Pluto than they did a year ago, according to Tom Ryan, the unit’s chief executive officer.
While global advertising sales have slowed this year, Pluto hasn’t suffered, Ryan said. Sales dropped for a few weeks, then rebounded to their previous pace.
“The business is growing like a weed,” Ryan said. Ryan credited Pluto’s recent growth to demand for high-quality programming at no additional cost.
The first two seasons of “Narcos” are based on the life of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar and his tussles with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. The third season followed the Cali cartel, while two subsequent seasons were rebranded “Narcos: Mexico.”
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