VIZIO today announced the launch of a new live TV streaming service, WatchFree. As the name suggests there is no direct cost associated with this service beyond the requirement of owning a VIZIO-branded TV in the first place. Therefore, this is being touted as a free service to VIZIO TV owners, and the TV maker has been able to achieve this by partnering with Pluto TV to provide the service.
Pluto TV already offers access to a limited number of TV channels for free and so this announcement represents a building on Pluto TV's approach by including those free channels into the VIZIO SmartCast OS ecosystem. Therefore, not only do VIZIO TV owners get to benefit from free TV without the need of a contract, subscription, or any additional hardware, but there is also no need for any OTT software to be installed either. As the WatchFree service is now in the process of rolling out to compatible devices via an over-the-air update. After arriving, TV owners just have to "press the Input button and select WatchFree" to get started.
As this is a free service, it is one which should be considered a light or skinny service with the free content on offer limited compared to the more robust content offered through the various paid streaming service options. In spite of the channel limitation, VIZIO states WatchFree adds more than 100 channels to the SmartCast experience with these channels said to span the content and genre spectrums, including access to TV shows, movies, news, and more. Some of the highlighted channels in the announcement include Pluto TV Movies, Black Cinema, NBC News, Fox Sports, and Crime Network. Furthermore, this is understood to be the beginning of what's to come with the announcement stating Pluto TV plans to "launch two new pop-up channels" which will provide access to shows including Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares and Unsolved Mysteries. Once these channels go live, they will also be available to VIZIO TV owners via WatchFree. For reference, this is an ad-supported service as that is how Pluto TV largely generates revenue to accommodate a free at the point of service approach.