Media center app maker Plex officially launched its ad-supported video service with movies and TV shows from MGM, Warner Bros., Lionsgate and Legendary Wednesday. The service will be available in more than 200 countries and territories, making it the first ad-supported video service with a nearly global reach.
Getting the rights to launch in so many countries was key to bringing ad-supported video to Plex, said CEO Keith Valory in a recent interview with Variety. “More than half of our users are outside of the U.S.”
The initial catalog will include thousands of movies and TV show episodes, according to Plex executives, with plans to add many more over time. Some titles will only be streaming in some territories, while others are being made available everywhere. At launch, users will have access to movies like “Rain Man,” “Teen Wolf,” “The Terminator,” “American Ultra,” “Frequency,” “Hard Candy,” “Ghost in the Shell,” and more.
Plex’s free-to-watch catalog will initially be more heavily focused on movies than TV shows, but the company plans to add more TV content in the coming months. In addition, Plex will also stream some kids content, documentaries, and concert videos like “Nicki Minaj: Pink Planet,” “Deadmau5: Live @ Earl’s Court,” “Taylor Swift: Just for You,” and “Electric Daisy Carnival Experience.”
Plex’s new ad-supported video service on Apple TV.
Plex’s new video service can be accessed for free through the Plex app, which is available on Android and iOS, Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV and nearly all other major smart TV and gaming platforms and devices, as well as on the web.
Existing Plex users will be able to access ad-supported video as just another content source, similar to their local libraries. However, the company clearly hopes that the addition of ad-supported video will make Plex more appealing to new users as well. “We have millions of users today, and we hope we’ll have millions more come in for ad-supported content,” said Valory.
Plex launches ad-supported movies into a crowded field of competing services, including Pluto, Tubi, Xumo, the Roku Channel and Amazon’s IMDB TV. The entire segment has seen growing interest from consumers looking to augment their paid subscriptions with free content, and demand is expected to keep growing as more consumers cut the cord. “It is nice to see that ad-supported video is doing well across the board,” said Valory.
At the same time, ad-supported video services often have little to differentiate themselves from the crowd. Most of the licensing agreements with major studios are non-exclusive, meaning that the same titles appear on multiple services. Valory said that some titles will be exclusive to Plex, and that the company hopes to grow the amount of exclusive content over time.
But Plex executives also bank on their app’s ability to handle different media types to stand out from the competition. Launched as a way to catalog and host local media libraries, Plex now also offers access to podcasts, web shows, DVR recordings and streaming music. In recent weeks, the company began to integrate those assets, giving users the ability to stream the soundtracks for movies in their personal libraries.
The same feature will also be available for ad-supported movies soon. Down the line, Plex wants to serve up even more recommendations across genres, and for instance recommend podcasts related to movies and TV shows. The ultimate goal of these efforts is to allow users to go deep on the subjects they’re interested in, Plex chief product officer Scott Olechowski told Variety in August. “We want to become the place where fans go.”
To keep those fans hooked, Plex also tried to keep the ad load for its new free-to-watch service low. “We really want the ad experience to be great,” said Valory. “This will have about one-third of the ads than on traditional TV.”