Plex Update Brings Superb Discover and Universal Search

Plex continues to improve and reinvent itself with the goal of becoming the one app that you turn to first for all streaming. Its most recent addition is Plex Discover (in public Beta). Plex Discover finds trending and popular shows on all of your subscription services. The update also brings a Watchlist to add the shows you want to view next. Its new search feature lets you search across all content services, including free and subscription apps, your downloaded movie library, live TV, and Plex's 50,000 free on-demand titles.

It's best said by Keith Valory, CEO of Plex, "We have been saying for years that our goal was to create a one-stop-shop for all the entertainment that matters to you, and today we put a massive piece of that puzzle in place." He continued, "With new streaming services, movies, and shows constantly coming available, it's time to tame the media chaos, and that's what we aim to do with these new features. In short, we know it's painful to find what to watch. We just want to get you there as quickly as possible."

Plex Discover

Discover is Plex's new recommendations that include all of your subscription services. When you first go to the Discover submenu, you will be presented with a list of services. This list is incorporated into rows of trending, popular and new show recommendations for each streaming service. A row of shows on "other services" lists where to watch the title in the show details.

It's an impressive, comprehensive list of over 150 services, including Live TV subscriptions like SlingTV, YouTube, and DIRECTV. Discover includes all the prominent popular services—Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, Google Play Movies, and Paramount Plus. It also displays titles from the Roku Channel and Apple TV Plus. Suggestions can also be displayed from A&E, ABC, Acorn TV, Adult Swim, Amazon Video (for rented or purchased videos), AMC channels, Arrow, BBC America, Boomerang, Bravo TV, BritBox, Cartoon Network, Comedy Central, Cooking Channel, Criterion Channel, Crunchyroll, Curiosity Stream, the CW, Discovery channels, Disney Plus, Food Network, IMDB, Pluto TV, Showtime, Starz, Sundance Now, TCM, TLC, Vudu and many more.

Some of the niche channels that are included are AsianCrush, BroadwayHD, Cultpix, Curia, Darkmatter TV, Dekkoo, Destination America, Motor Trend, Dogwoof on Demand,

On the web browser version of Plex, you can click on the show you want to watch, and it will launch the service where it is streaming. As Discover is still in Beta, the Plex app for devices cannot automatically launch yet.

Discover also displays upcoming titles that are coming soon to add to your Watchlist to make it easier to find a movie or TV show when it becomes available.

Note that Plex must be updated to the newest version for Discover to appear in the side menu. If you don't see it, you may need to go to settings to be sure it is added with the other items displayed in your menu.

Plex Universal Watchlist

As most users subscribe to at least four services (and other enthusiasts or those with special interests topping ten services), the Universal Watchlist is a convenient way to keep a list of all the titles you want to watch regardless of where they are streaming. You don't have to worry about maintaining a watchlist for each individual service. With the new Watchlist, the Plex app becomes the first stop when you sit down to watch TV.

At launch, when a new episode has been released, there will be no particular listing or indicator (as it does in Up Next on Apple TV). And, in the beginning, in the Plex TV app, you'll have to manually go to the streaming service where the chosen title is showing. The detail page has a display to "watch from these locations." Clicking on the box of icons displays where the title is available to stream for free, on subscriptions services, and where you can buy or rent it along with the price. Despite its current limitations, it's an excellent visual list of what you want to watch across all services without opening each app.

Titles can be added to the Watchlist from their detail info screen. The Watchlist can include movies in your downloaded library, any of the 50,000 Plex ad-supported on-demand titles, content from Plex's free "live TV" linear channels, Plex DVR recordings from broadcast channels (if you have it set up with a tuner), shows you find on the Discover screen, and titles that you have found using the Universal Search feature.

Once you've added titles to your Watchlist, the list can be sorted by title, date added, release date, or critic rating.

Universal Search

Because of the vast number of connected services, this may be the most complete movie and TV search available on any device. And while it does list the Plex on-demand movies first, it is agnostic and includes all other services.

Search by titles or by actor, and results are displayed from your media library, all of the connected services, free on-demand movies and shows on Plex, live TV, and upcoming theatrical releases.

As I tested the search function, I noticed that you get more than the obvious results that could lead to some unique discoveries. A search for "Avengers" brought up not only the current Avengers titles but a war movie with Deborah Kerr from 1942 that I could rent from Amazon.

Plex May Be a One-Stop-Shop

Plex has come a long way from its beginnings as an aggregate for those enthusiasts who download media. It's improved the menus and interface to be similar to the Roku or Apple TV apps, making it easier for the average user to navigate. Linear channels and free, ad-supported (good) titles have added to its appeal. But it's the Universal Search and Watchlist features that may now make everyone take notice.