Nine months after acquiring the news video startup Watchup, Plex has started to integrate curated news videos into its media center app. Plex users on select devices can now watch videos from 190 publishers, including CNN, CBS, Hearst Television, Scripps, Tribune Media and others.
Plex added news videos to its apps on Apple TV, Android TV, and Roku as well as its iOS and Android mobile apps and the Plex web app Tuesday. The news integration is scheduled become available to users of these devices worldwide within the 48 hours following the announcement, and will come to apps on other platforms in the near future.
At the center of the news integration is a personalized feed that Plex calls “My Newscast.” Consisting of around 100 videos, this feed is initially being compiled based on a user’s stated preferences as well as their location, and includes news videos from local broadcasters and more.
Over time, the feed gets fine-tuned as users skip certain videos, gravitate to their favorite sources, and more. Users have also the option to exclude certain news sources to make sure they never see a video from that one network they can’t stand ever again. “It’s really build around your personal preferences,” said Plex product & growth director Jason Williams during a demo of the new feature for Variety.
In addition to the newscast feed, Plex also now offers a catalog of news videos sorted by category. Live video hasn’t been integrated yet, but Williams said that the company is looking at doing so in the future. For now, the newscast is being refreshed every 3 minutes to make sure it’s always up to date, and Plex is also getting ready to bump up major news events to make sure the feed doesn’t feel like a replay. “We will elevate breaking news to the front of your newscast,” said Williams.
Other features Plex might add over time include a better integration with a user’s Plex library. With that, Plex could for example serve up news about movies and TV shows based on the videos someone is already watching with the app.
For Plex, adding news to its app is a big deal for multiple reasons. One is that it is a new source of revenue: Plex’s primary source of income has been the Plex Pass, a paid premium tier that gives subscribers access to additional features, including the ability to use Plex as a DVR for broadcast TV.
News will be available to everyone, regardless of whether they pay or not. The company will run ads against news videos, with Williams telling Variety that users should expect a video ad every 7 to 10 minutes. However, Plex won’t interrupt news clips with interstitials, and a user’s newscast will never start with a pre-roll, he said.
News on Plex is also noteworthy because it is making use of some technology the company built to more easily integrate third-party content. That same framework was previously used to bring live TV to Plex, explained Williams, and could be used to add many more content sources in the future.
And with that, Plex also aims to become a media app that appeals to a much wider audience. Up until now, users had to run a server on a home computer or a network-attached storage drive to manage their personal media collections with Plex, and transcode media to play on multiple devices. More recently, Plex added support for a cloud-based server to simplify the service.
But news on Plex runs without the need for any server, foreshadowing a future where many more users could get some use out of Plex without having to deal with the nitty-gritty details of media center software.