Vizio’s WatchFree is a streaming service aimed squarely at cord cutters

For a TV manufacturer, Vizio is always coming up with good ways to cut cable out of the equation – SmartCast, Vizio's latest smart platform, is built around the premise of using your phone or tablet to Cast content to the big screen. 

To continue that trend of sticking it to the cable providers, today Vizio announced a new pack-in feature called WatchFree that puts Pluto TV on every VizioSmartCast TV free of charge. 

Pluto TV and, by extension WatchFree, help new cord-cutters transition away from the narrow, gilded confines of cable TV by offering a streaming TV experience that looks and acts similar. WatchFree will show up like any regular source along the bottom of the screen, there are defined channels and a TV guide function that looks an awful lot like what you’d see with a Time Warner or Verizon cable box. 

The main difference between WatchFree and your traditional cable service is that WatchFree is ... well, free. 

The downside here is that you won’t find all of the same channels you’d find on cable. While there are tons of special interest channels - almost none of them are recognized names. Instead of FOX Business, Pluto TV offers Cheddar. Instead of a nerd-centric network like Spike, Pluto TV offers Geek & Sundry, Felicia Day’s platform. 

Don't look a gift horse in the mouth

More and more, we've seen TV manufacturers create their own streaming service. Vizio's WatchFree is the latest to offer it, but Samsung made the jump to Pluto TV last year with its TV Plus service that lumps TV channels and video rentals in the same spot, while The Roku Channel is a curated list of B-list movies and shows that are all available to watch with ads on Roku TVs. 

While Samsung and Vizio's method to offer free TV is a thinly veiled re-skin of Pluto TV – a service that was already available on those platforms – the integration will make it easier for cable cutters to see all their options right out of the box. 

Like Pluto TV, WatchFree is all ad-powered – so while you might've escaped the monthly bill (yay!) you haven't quite outrun obnoxious advertisements.

Nick Pino

Nick Pino is Managing Editor, TV and AV for TechRadar's sister site, Tom's Guide. Previously, he was the Senior Editor of Home Entertainment at TechRadar, covering TVs, headphones, speakers, video games, VR and streaming devices. He's also written for GamesRadar+, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade, and he has a degree in computer science he's not using if anyone wants it.