Plex looks to solve the ‘streaming struggle’ with one-stop navigation

Free streaming platform Plex introduced a new upgrade as it aims to solve what the company dubs “the streaming struggle” with one navigation window that lets users search for where to watch content across all of their paid and free streaming services.

It is a timely update as media analysts company Interpret recently published a report, finding U.S. viewers subscribe to an average of four to five SVOD services, plus many also including ad-supported services like Pluto TV and Tubi into their rotation. Of 9,000 survey respondents, 20% agreed that they “subscribe to too many video streaming services.”

With tons of content out there, and a large number of streaming services available including direct-to-consumer, having to go in and out of various platforms to try and figure out where to watch a specific show or movie can be time consuming and sometimes overwhelming challenge. Plex cited Horowitz Research Report finding nearly 50% of people find it hard to know what shows are on which services, with 44% saying it’s often difficult finding something to watch at all.   

While there are plenty of companies working on aggregation platforms for various streaming services, searching across platforms by content is something Plex says it has now nailed down.

Plex has high aims, as the company says its new “Discover” feature can do for streaming media what Google did for the internet, by simplifying where to find any TV title or movie to watch in the vast sea of options. The focus is for both discovering, searching and personalizing movies and TV shows across any streaming services, be it Plex’s own free movies and TVs, subscriptions like Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max or other various personal libraries.

The new Discover feature is accessible when users log in on any of Plex’s major platforms, including Roku, Apple TV+, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, iOS and Android mobile devices, smart TVs, game consoles and the web app.

The search function works through plugging in a movie or show (or by keywords like actors or directors) and Plex surfaces where it’s available to watch – and if it’s from a service the user subscribes to, the content can launch from Plex, saving time and without the need to move in and out of apps.

As part of the update, Plex also introduced a Plex Universal Watchlist, as a way to keep track of titles users want to view across platforms.

“So, instead of a watchlist on your HBO Max account and your Amazon Prime service and your FXNow service, you just add it all to your Plex Watchlist,” the company wrote in a blog.

And once titles on the list are available on one of the streaming services users have access to, Plex will show them as newly available.

“We have been saying for years that our goal was to create a one-stop-shop for all the entertainment that matters to you, and today we put a massive piece of that puzzle in place,” said Keith Valory, CEO of Plex, in a statement. “With new streaming services, movies, and shows constantly coming available, it’s time to tame the media chaos and that’s what we aim to do with these new features. In short, we know it's painful to find what to watch. We just want to get you there as quickly as possible.”

Plex itself is an ad-supported video on demand and streaming media platform that also offers more than 250 free linear TV channels. In 2021, Plex raised $50 million in a growth equity round from existing investor Intercap, with plans to use the funds to build out the commercial side of the business including marketing, monetization and content.