Viacom's Pluto TV Adds New Conservative Channel

Pluto TV
Pluto TV channel The First's "I'm Right w/Jesse Kelly"

The channel, called the First, is in beta mode and features two shows.

Viacom has quietly debuted a conservative news channel on Pluto TV, a digital platform it acquired for $340 million in March.

The channel, dubbed the First, is considered to be in beta mode and features just two shows, I’m Right w/Jesse Kelly and The Buck Sexton Show. Sexton is a syndicated talk-radio host, and his Pluto TV show appears to be a video version. Kelly is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and former congressional candidate in Arizona who also hosts a podcast.

The Hollywood Reporter reported on Tuesday that Viacom, controlled by Shari Redstone, had been exploring the creation of a channel that might someday compete with Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Channel. Viacom denied that report, but a spokesman said the First has been in the works for about a year.

The Viacom spokesman said the First comes from an unnamed third-party partner. Pluto TV has several such partners: it has a Fox Sports-branded channel, CNN and the NFL Channel, for example.

In fact, the First isn’t the only conservative news channel at Pluto TV, given it also features a Newsmax-branded channel.

Whether launching the First is the entirety of Viacom’s plans to wade into conservative television remains to be seen, as sources tell THR that more ambitious efforts had been bandied about, including rebranding one of the conglomerate’s many cable channels. Viacom denies any such effort has been greenlit, though.

Viacom is trying to close a merger with CBS to create a $30 billion conglomerate to be called ViacomCBS, which will control Showtime, MTV, Comedy Central, BET, CBS, Nickelodeon and many other channels.