Plex becomes a streaming aggregator with new Universal Search, Watchlist, and Discover features

Plex has announced the addition of a couple of new features to its streaming app that turn it into a streaming aggregator, like Reelgood and JustWatch, to help organize and search your various streaming services. The first is a Universal Search feature that can find movies and TV shows across numerous streaming services and either launch the content directly in th streaming service’s app or allow you to add it to a universal watchlist within Plex. The second is a Discover section of the app that will help surface popular and trending content from within your other streaming services.

Plex’s search function has been for searching your own media library and the catalog of free ad-supported movies, TV shows, and live channels. Now the search results can include all movies and TV shows, regardless of where they can be watched outside of the Plex app. Universal search functionality is nothing new, as the Fire TV and many other platforms include it already, but the addition of it in Plex is the first time that it has been combined with your own media library. One must for Fire TV users is to enable the “System Keyboard” within Plex’s search options so that you can use your voice to input text.

Once a title available outside of Plex is selected, you’ll see a row of streaming service buttons that can be selected to launch those apps where the title is available. Alternatively, you can select to add the content to Plex’s new universal watchlist. Plex says that future movies, not yet available on any streaming service, can also be added so that you can keep track of when they become available on a streaming service.

Manually searching for and adding content to a watchlist is fine but can become tedious, especially for new content. That’s where Plex’s other new feature, Discover, comes in. The new Discover tab will list popular movies and TV shows across all streaming services to help you find something to watch in one place.

You can select which streaming services you have access to within the Plex app. This will help steer the Discover tab in the right direction so that you aren’t seeing too many suggestions that you don’t have access to.

Both the new Universal Search/Watchlist and Discover features are launching today in a public beta. On Fire TV devices you will need version 9.0.1 or newer of the Plex app to use these features. Unfortunately, it does not appear as though the new version of Plex with these features is available yet in the Amazon Appstore for Fire TV devices, but I expect it will be released soon enough.

12 comments
  1. Nicholas Cannon says:

    Just waiting for the day Plex will have ads everywhere which seems inevitable

    • Yeah, it definitely seems like that could happen since they’re focusing less and less on paid features for Plex Pass. If Plex gets ads, one option would be to use MrMC as the front end for your Plex server. It integrates very nicely with Plex.

  2. oasis_001 says:

    Why is another app/UI needed for a universal watchlist / aggregator? Isn’t this why Fire TV exists? If Google TV, Just Watch, ReelGood and now Plex can aggregate to a universal watchlist that includes standalone app content, why is Amazon not offering this as part of their Fire TV UI experience? More and more articles are talking up the holy grail of a system aggregator that offers a unified search/discovery/play/continue watching experience. It is like Roku and Amazon spent years acquiring users and getting 90% of the way there and then just stopped and are leaving the door open for others. Puzzling…

    • The reason why device manufacturers like Google, Amazon, Roku, and Apple can’t create the “holy grail of a system aggregator” is because streaming services don’t want them to and device manufacturers can’t piss them off or they will pull their app. Every streaming service that has content show up in the device’s interface/search has voluntarily submitted its content catalog to the device manufacturer. Device manufacturers cannot choose, on their own, to show you content from a streaming service without the streaming service’s okay. Streaming services want you browsing in their own app because that’s the best way for them to keep you watching something from them. If a device manufacturer goes too far with its own interface/search to keep people out of a streaming service’s app, then the streaming service will pull its app from the device.

      Netflix is the biggest example of this, because it has the most leverage as the most popular streaming service. It took years for Netflix content to finally appear in the Fire TV’s universal search, not because Amazon didn’t add it, but because Netflix refused to allow it. Google TV and Apple TV still can’t show Netflix content in their aggregator interfaces. Fire TV can do it because it created a way for the app itself can choose to display a recommendation row in the Fire TV interface.

      This is why 3rd-party apps like Reelgood, JustWatch, and Plex can step up and aggregate content from anywhere. They don’t need to play nice with other streaming services because they have nothing to lose.

      • Rik Emmett says:

        Some of the aggregators can find the show, but then can’t launch the app to start playing the desired show. You have to launch the app yourself and start the show.

        • oasis_001 says:

          They all seem to fail at some point in the process. It is still in beta, but the PLEX version is reportedly not firing up HBO Max content. I have tried Just Watch and ReelGood. They either don’t integrate with all the services I use, or if they do they can’t launch all external apps. I get that streamers want to keep us in their app, but I would engage more with a Netflix, HBO Max or Disney+ if they allowed their content to aggregate into a CONTINUE WATCHING queue of a Fire TV devices home page. I use them less because they make access to their content more difficult.

      • oasis_001 says:

        I would be happy with a compromise if they allowed the ‘Peak Row’ that you get from an anchored app on the home page to show your continue watching queue for that streaming app. Netflix kinda does this with the last item you watched showing first with a ‘continue watching’ prompt. But, it only shows the last item viewed and not all items in your continue watching queue. Oh well. I guess we will likely never get a truly seamless aggregated view.

      • Dan W says:

        Had sideloaded v9.1 this onto several Fire TVs and it was working *reasonably* well in terms of linking through to streaming content.

        The actually released version 9.2, at least in the UK, has completely disabled the linking though to content, you can’t even fire up the appropriate app.

        Looks like Amazon have an issue with Plex doing this that they didn’t with Reelgood, JustWatch etc – perhaps just a question of popularity of the app.

  3. Patrick says:

    Now… if it would let you play via Plex instead of switching out… that’d be a winner.

    Just stay in one app.

  4. Hereward the Woke says:

    Before bloating out its software with new unsolicited features, isn’t it time Plex sorted out long standing bugs such as the client app losing sync with the server and screwing up your customisation, and failing to scrape data from local metadata and/or The TVDB?

    Also, Plex’s own ‘curated content’ has very little interest for those outside of the USA.

  5. wlion1 says:

    BoxeeBox were the pioneers of Content Universal Search. I am disappointed Samsung did not do anything when they acquired them.

  6. Rik Emmett says:

    Some Plex Live Channels remain in the Live TV Guide, but there is no option to sync the plex source anymore.

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