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Pluto TV is disrupting the world of traditional television. By making hundreds of channels and thousands of movies and TV shows available as free advertising-supported content, the streaming service fills a unique and accessible space in a world otherwise dominated by subscriptions, allowing end users to watch content wherever they want.

Earlier this year, Galen D’Attilio, business development strategy executive at Pluto TV, and his team were researching consumption of video-on-demand (VOD) with the intent to learn more about audience consumption habits. Leonid Vanshelbaum, ’07, director of new business development at Pluto TV, suggested they reach out to Chicago Booth’s James M. Kilts Center for Marketing and engage the students in their Developing New Products and Services lab course for answers. In these highly popular lab courses, Booth students work with clients and apply their knowledge to companies’ real-world problems. More than 2,100 students have taken a marketing lab course at Booth, collaborating with nearly 200 companies, from Google and Uber, to Walmart, Airbnb, PepsiCo, and more.

Galen D'Attilio, Pluto TV
Galen D'Attilio is a business development strategy executive who tapped Booth students‘ expertise for streaming platform Pluto TV.

“Initially, the project was focused on the consumption and behavioral habits of both linear and video-on-demand products,” D’Attilio said, “but the scope naturally evolved into a study of VOD user need states, and that resulted from an astounding amount of data that the team collected.”

The Booth students dove into the project with gusto, doing extensive paneling and surveying of both nonusers and current users. They sought to understand what consumers were looking for in a platform, who was most likely to consume Pluto TV’s content, what might attract consumers, how users might interact with each other, and more. Students categorized their findings and developed a rubric that the company could then use to inform product experimentation and decisioning.

D’Attilio said the Booth students closely examined everything from social interaction to the discoverability of content—whether through recommendations or through users’ ability to control video playback. They also explored many other potential contributors for how Pluto TV may further develop robust products.

Ultimately, D’Attilio was impressed with what the students brought to the project. “It was clear from the very beginning, in conversations with Booth faculty, that the level of expectation from them was already high, and so my own expectations reflected that,” D’Attilio said. “But the end product still ended up exceeding everyone’s expectations.”

The Booth students’ work resulted in a behavioral mapping that will allow Pluto TV to formulate strategy and prioritize product development initiatives into the future based on user need states. “The rubric has given us a lot of insight into potential consumption categorizations, and how we would score concepts so that we could understand what has the highest potential to contribute to incremental user engagement,” D’Attilio said.

D’Attilio praised the students’ preparation and skill, as well as the level and rigor of their data analysis. “The actual end results—from a rubric perspective—were very much in line with what you would expect from a strategy consultant with many years of experience.”