Popular media center app maker Plex just took the next step to become the go-to solution for cord cutters: Plex has acquired Menlo Park, Calif.-based news video startup Watchup, and now plans to add news feeds from local broadcasters and other publishing partners to its app in the coming months.
“The cord cutter messaging is resonating well with our audience,” said Plex CEO Keith Valory during a recent interview with Variety. The company saw a lot of interest in its recently-launched DVR beta test, which allows Plex users to record over-the air television from broadcast networks like ABC, CBS and NBC, and took this as an encouragement to add more online content directly to Plex. “News is the next step,” Valory said. “It certainly won’t be the end.”
Watchup is an app that syndicates news video from more than 150 publishers, including local broadcasters in over 100 markets, as well as publishers like CNN, Vox, Fusion and AJ+. Altogether, Watchup ingests more than 3000 videos from its partners every day. Viewers can use Watchup’s apps to generate a personalized newscast based on their location and their interests.
Watchup founder and CEO Adriano Farano told Variety that his company had been talking to Plex for more than a year, with talks gradually progressing from a simple partnership to a full acquisition. “We found a great home,” he said.
The entire Watchup team is joining Plex as part of the deal, and Farano will become the company’s new head of content. Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed, but Valory said that it was “not a material transaction for Plex.”
Plex is best known as a media center app that lets users stream their own music and video collections from their home PCs to mobile phones, tablets, game consoles, TV-connected devices and more. The company now wants to integrate videos from Watchup’s publishing partners in the second quarter of this year. In addition to those publisher relationships, Plex also wants to make use of some of the machine learning and content ingestion technologies that power Watchup. News content will be available to both free and paying Plex users, Valory said.
Watchup will continue to support its existing apps for the time being, including a new Fire TV app that launched earlier this week. But Vallory said that the startup’s apps are likely going to be discontinued this summer.
Vallory said that news is just a first step to turn Plex into an app for media discovery and consumption that goes beyond local content. “We will roll out more content categories over the next year,” he said, while also arguing that it wouldn’t help Plex to just sign what he called piece-meal deals with individual publishers. “That’s a multi-year journey for us,” he said
Plex, which is based in Los Gatos, Calif., has raised more than $11 million in funding from investors including Kleiner Perkins, Klass Capital, Tribal Brands and others. The company said this week that its software is used by 10 million people, and Valory said that the typical Plex user spends on average 14-15 hours per week in the app.