Plex’s latest beta features are a modern solution to a modern problem – having to search through HBO Max, Netflix, Disney Plus and, like three other services, to find something to watch. The company announced a new “Discover” feature, which aggregates and recommends content from various streaming services and a universal watchlist that brings together everything you want to watch in one place.
The Discover screen acts like most streaming service homepages, giving you recommendations on what to watch next, but with the ability to display content from many different catalogs. However, it shouldn’t overwhelm you with selections you don’t have access to. There is a setting that lets you choose only the services you have. Plex has been working for several years to position itself as a legitimized one-stop-shop for streaming — and ad-supported free-to-air TV business model — that the new menu might finally be able to achieve.
There’s also a new “watch from these locations” feature, which helps if you know what you want to watch but don’t know where to find it. It adds a section to the info page for movies and TV shows showing which streaming services offer that content. On some versions of the app (available on devices like Apple TV, Fire Stick, Roku, PlayStation, smart TVs, etc.), Plex may even direct you to the streaming service from the page.
The list of streaming services supported by Plex with these features is, to put it mildly, huge. It includes all the big names, like Hulu, Disney Plus, Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO Max, and Peacock, plus – no kidding – nearly 150 others (many of them like Martha Stewart TV, which I had never heard of ) . Basically, if you can legally stream what you’re watching somewhere on the internet, Plex can probably tell you about it, with a few exceptions. And, of course, you can also let it search your Plex libraries for self-hosted videos or other media.
Plex’s support page states that “not all platforms allow sending the user to the corresponding streaming app”. From reports on Reddit, it looks like a big platform that can’t crosslink is Roku. Testing it on my Apple TV it seemed to work fine, but it was very clearly a beta. I could open links to Netflix, Hulu, and Apple TV Plus, but got an error trying to open links for HBO Max and YouTube. Plex said the apps weren’t installed, even though they were. On the web version of Plex it worked for every platform I could think of trying (although when opening things on YouTube it just took me to the search results page for the title instead of the actual page of the movie itself).
Personally, this may have been what finally got me into using Plex. I recently went through what the company cheekily calls “the streaming struggle,” where my wife and I spent an hour figuring out what to watch. Most of the features Plex adds here aren’t unique to it – the Apple TV has universal search built in and lets you sort of create a watchlist (although those features have very limited support for content on Netflix). Google does a decent job of telling you what services a show or movie is available on, and other smart TV platforms have universal search features as well. But it would certainly be nice to have everything in one place and in a relatively neat interface that works on many different devices.
These features should be available for free on most platforms, as long as you’re using the most recent version of the Plex app. I didn’t have to sign up for a beta program to access them, but you may need to follow Plex’s instructions to find them depending on your settings.