Plex Inks Deal With Warner Bros. for Movies and TV Shows

Media center app developer Plex signed a deal with Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution to add an unspecified number of free movies and TV shows to its app when it debuts ad-supported video streaming later this year. Plex hopes to evolve its app into a “one-stop shop” for digital media, with plans to resell video subscription services and add transactional VOD in 2020. Plex chief executive Keith Valory noted that you “shouldn’t have to go to a lot of different apps to get the content you care about.”

Variety reports that, with the exception of some content such as Netflix originals, Plex executives are “confident that they’ll be able to serve up much of the rest, including movies, TV shows, podcasts, news and webisodes,” or, as Valory put it, “75 to 85 percent of the content you care about, you’ll get in one beautiful app.”

Plex debuted as a startup almost ten years ago, and initially “focused on building some core functionality for users with existing digital media collections.” Its key technology is the Plex Media Server that “helps organize digital media libraries, and is capable of streaming content from someone’s home to a Plex app on their phone, or from their home office PC to the Roku Plex app in their living room.”

Since then, Plex has “focused much of its energy on extending its reach, launching apps for mobile devices, smart TVs, game consoles and streaming boxes at a rapid pace.” In the last three years, it added “free news videos, web shows, podcasts, subscription music streaming powered by Tidal, and over-the-air broadcast TV with DVR functionality.” The latter, said Valory, has been “a big chunk of our growth over the last couple of years.”

Plex has 20 million registered accounts, but won’t reveal how many people use the app. Even so, “on Roku, Plex’s app gets more usage than Spotify and ESPN.”

The company’s chief moneymaker is Plex Pass, “a subscription tier for users who want to access premium features that include the ability to record over-the-air television, download media to mobile devices for offline viewing and more.” It is also bundling Plex Pass with Tidal’s $20 HD music subscription plan and may add similar bundles after the subscription video services launch next year.

TechCrunch reports that the deal with Warner Bros. “represents the first time that Plex has ever offered ad-supported content on its service that will benefit its bottom line.” At CES 2019, Plex said it was “in discussions with various rights holders” and that its model would “be similar to Roku’s The Roku Channel. Plex also said it plans to use SpotX for programmatic ads, “with more ad sales capabilities to roll out in the future.”

Currently, Plex’s left-side menu navigation is where online content can be found; TechCrunch says it is a “likely destination to add the new AVOD (ad-supported video on demand) collection.”