How Pluto TV 10X'd MAUs and Got Acquired for $340M

Pluto TV is a pioneer in online streaming, a global market worth around $372 billion with projected annual growth of 19.9% per year.

Unique from their competitors, Pluto TV has no subscription, no paid service, no upsell, and no forced registration. Anyone can visit Pluto TV and stream shows without even giving away their email address.

This high-value, viewer-centric business model led to explosive growth. When Pluto TV started working with Apex Growth’s co-founder (Dave Riggs) in 2017, they already had approximately 6 million users per month.

Those achievements weren’t just a result of Pluto TV’s business model. They were also a result of their team’s dedication to working with creators, releasing fresh content, and giving viewers the variety they crave.

But Pluto TV Faced The Unique Challenges of a Crowded Streaming Space

Despite their success, Pluto TV’s founders knew they weren’t keeping pace with a demanding and ever-changing advertising ecosystem. 

Not to mention, the streaming space is jam-packed with big competitors.

If they wanted to reach the next level — if they wanted to become the sort of business that could get acquired — they needed thoughtful user acquisition — the ability to effectively deploy millions of dollars every month in ad-spend. 

Additionally, Pluto TV’s north star metric had been app downloads. But that was no longer the ideal goal the company needed to grow their user-base (and their advertiser relationships) to the next level.

They explored their options.

Early on, Pluto TV considered building their own in-house growth marketing team to address these challenges. But the time it would take to hire and train those individuals made them reconsider — how would they vet great candidates? How would they integrate those new marketers and analysts with their existing departments? How would they achieve the necessary speed of execution and maintain quality? 

The founders realized that, if they wanted to grow, it would make more sense to seek marketing expertise and efficiency outside of their own company.

But they also understood that they couldn’t settle for a run-of-the-mill marketing agency. They needed a partner with deep and fast marketing experience — a team who could engineer best-in-class growth marketing strategies, craft engaging creative, and ultimately deploy millions of dollars every month in ad-spend (profitably).

The solution?

Pluto TV’s vision was to allow people to watch their favorite shows with minimal friction — causing them to rave on social media and to their friends, organically increasing the monthly active user base. 

But in the same way that Billy Beane provided a breakthrough methodology for baseball players and coaches, Pluto TV needed an outsider perspective and expertise. 

They needed to work with a team who understood the ins and outs of big business marketing, but also stood on the cutting edge as pioneers and iterators for great marketing creative.

They needed a partner who deeply understood the mobile app acquisition ecosystem and had experience spending lots of money to acquire users efficiently.

This group would also need to help them transition from a focus on app downloads to a focus on monthly active users (a far better KPI for their stage of growth).

Not to mention, these people needed to be reliable, friendly, and responsive.

That’s when they reached out to Dave, the co-founder of Apex.

Apex was primed to provide creative ingenuity, rapid iteration, multi-million-dollar deployment, funnel CRO engineering, friendliness, and reliability to a company just like Pluto TV. They were ready to take existing Pluto creative and deploy it quickly on a myriad of mobile networks.

In fact, the Apex team already had deep experience as the marketing execution arm for companies like Disney and Fox.

More specifically, their co-founder scaled Lyft from two U.S. markets to over 300 U.S. markets in under three years and spent millions of dollars effectively acquiring users for mobile apps.

This was just the type of big marketing reliability and expertise that Pluto TV needed to take their business to the next level.

At the same time, Pluto TV was excited to provide Apex with highlight reels of their content and any other assets needed to help them do their best work.

Unsurprisingly, Apex became a critical asset for Pluto

Apex brought decades of experience to the table — in the form of engineers, data analysts, designers, marketers, and proven $100M+ growth frameworks. 

Apex also provided the speed and efficiency that Pluto TV’s team was craving. It no longer took weeks to create, review, and launch campaigns… only days. Testing and iteration was no exception. Pluto now benefited from a marketing operation that was ready to pivot on a dime based on a feedback loop of good testing and good data. 

In short, Apex became a critical extension of Pluto TV's team, and together they achieved some amazing results:

  • Pluto TV grew from 6 million monthly users to 68 million monthly users.
  • Apex caused Pluto to regularly outrank Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and other competitors in the Free Entertainment category on the Google Play store
  • Pluto TV’s focus shifted from app downloads to monthly active users. This allowed them to acquire users who stayed in the app longer and generated more revenue from the business
  • Expert education from Apex on models including ROI and ROAS (‘return on ad spend’) unlocked even more paths to growth.

Then, a few years after working with the Apex team, Pluto TV was acquired by ViacomCBS (now Paramount) for $340 million.

That acquisition (a dream come true for the founders) might not have happened at this level without the systems and solutions that Apex created and deployed in partnership with Pluto TV.

How can Apex help YOU?

At Apex, we understand that not every company is in the same place as Pluto was when they came to us. In fact, every company we work with is at a different stage... facing different challenges.

That’s why we take a unique approach with each and every one of our clients. 

We listen. We learn. And we use our decades of experience to craft efficient and effective solutions to help our partners reach their next level. 

You can work with Apex to test faster, learn faster, and grow faster, without sacrificing intention or quality. As it was for Pluto TV, you can think of Apex as a partner that takes a seat at your table, seeks to understand your business, and cares about results.

Each of our partner’s stories are exciting, thrilling, and full of previously unrecognized growth potential. 

Work with us.

And let’s write your story together.