ViacomCBS’s Pluto TV Fined $3.5 Million by FCC for Violating Closed-Caption Rules

ViacomCBS-owned Pluto TV will pay $3.5 million to settle an FCC investigation that found the free, ad-supported video streaming service violated the commission’s accessibility rules.

According to the FCC’s Enforcement Bureau, in addition to paying the civil penalty, Pluto TV agreed to enter into a compliance plan to ensure that non-exempt video programming that Pluto streams over the internet includes closed captioning in compliance with the agency’s rules.

Reps for Pluto TV did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The FCC said the action against Pluto TV reflects the first consent decree — and first enforcement action — related to closed-captioning rules applied to internet-based services since their adoption in 2012. “Given the growth of streaming services, this action reinforces the FCC’s commitment that people with disabilities should be able to access and enjoy streaming services,” the bureau said in a statement.

The IP-closed captioning rules apply broadly to the distributors, providers, and owners of internet-delivered video programming. The rules require the closed captioning of IP-delivered video programming and impose requirements on certain devices that receive or play back video programming. Under the FCC’s regulations, all full-length video programming streamed over the internet must be provided with closed captions if the programming was previously aired on TV in the U.S. with captions (or is live programming being shown on TV in the U.S. with captions).

In the second quarter of 2021, Pluto TV topped 52 million global monthly active users and revenue shot up 169% year-over-year, more than doubling for the fourth quarter in a row. U.S. watch-time per user on Pluto TV grew 45% year-over-year, ViacomCBS said.

Pluto TV was acquired for $340 million in early 2019 by Viacom, before the media conglomerate merged with CBS to form ViacomCBS later that year.

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