Plex’s local media server features are taking a backseat to its more recent ad-supported streaming success

Plex originally made its name as a great way to consume and organize your own local media through its server capabilities. I, personally, switched from using Kodi to Plex in recent years as the primary way of watching my own media collection for a number of reasons. The days of Plex being a constantly improving hub for your local media might be numbered as the app now has more users watching its ad-supported streaming content than using it to watch local content from a Plex Media Server. While that shift is likely great for Plex as a business, it’s reason enough to be concerned if you enjoy its local media capabilities.

In an interview with Jared Newman from TechHive, Plex’s vice president of marketing, Scott Hancock, revealed that there are now more people streaming ad-supported content in Plex than watching content from a local Plex media server. The flip in usage occurred sometime in 2022 and it’s likely safe to assume that trend will continue in 2023. While Hancock says the company is still focused on its local media features, you have to wonder how long that will last if the ad-supported streaming users continue to outpace the server users.

Plex dipped its toes into streaming content when it added access to news clips to its app in 2017. It wasn’t until the tail end of 2019 that Plex really started to lean into streaming content with the addition of a library of free ad-support movies and TV shows. That was closely followed up with the addition of live streaming channels in 2020. Those additions seem to have worked out well, seeing how they are more popular than the app’s original capabilities as a local media player.

For Plex users only interested in its local media capabilities, the ad-supported streaming offerings are, thankfully, very easy to hide and ignore. Even with the newer streaming content, the app is as capable as ever as a local media player. However, one has to assume that the over 50% of users that now stream its ad-supported content are generating far more revenue than the likely small percentage of users paying for a Plex Pass to gain additional features for local media playback. If customer use, and likely revenue, continues to shift away from its local media features, how long before Plex decides to abandon local media capabilities altogether?

Plex is also talking to smaller TV manufacturers about the possibility of Plex serving as the OS for TVs, according to Hancock. The app’s recently launched Discover feature does a good job of aggregating and managing streaming content in other apps, much like most smart TV and streaming box OSes. So much so that Amazon felt it was threatening enough to Fire TVs that it crippled the feature. Plex is also well-versed in handling TV tuners, thanks to its OTA DVR features, so it wouldn’t take much to turn the app into a full-fledged TV OS, assuming it piggybacks on top of Android and the Google Play Store, much like what Tivo did with its Tivo Stream 4K.

With Plex’s user base shifting away from local media and towards streaming content, it really seems like fans of its original local server-based capabilities should be at least a little worried about the app’s future. I hope I’m wrong and Plex continues to devote enough resources towards the media server capabilities, as Hancock has indicated they are currently doing, but this may be the beginning of the end for the Plex of old.

19 comments
  1. clocks says:

    Jellyfin. Just wish they had a watch together feature like the Plex FTV app has.

    • agent-squirrel says:

      It does have watch together. Top right there is an icon to create a group which enables syncplay.

    • Somebraziliandude says:

      Emby is still the best option for me, especially using it through the EmbyCon Kodi add-on. It can handle all the 4K content I want without the need for transcoding and has all the bells and whistles for subtitles, presentation, etc

    • Shair says:

      This is total nonsense! Many of us are using private IP yo trigger PMS and blocking phone-home calls with PiHole or the likes. So, Plex VP should stop making bold statements when they will never have the full picture.

  2. Pawdog says:

    Plex is becoming two different things. It’s a server client app combination with one userbase and àn AVOD service with a different userbase. It’s only natural for the easy free service to be popular over the server client that takes much time, knowledge, and expense to create, manage and maintain. I don’t see unless Plex sells out to some corporation, the current Plex owners abandoning real Plex just because the junk streaming service is successful.

  3. Jim says:

    I’ve been using Emby for years, I’ve only given Jellyfin a cursory look see, as I think it’s a branch off Emby. Each has it’s own strengths and weaknesses it’s really just a matter of personal preferences IMHO

  4. Sunkast says:

    I don’t think it is as easy to ignore or hide the ad supported videos. In my experience, Plex has been pushing the ad supported versions of the same content that I have in my library, in a manner that is deceptive, in tricking me into playing that ad supported version over my local copy that has no ads.

  5. Flux Yeah says:

    Plex users need to realize the company needs to sell more than Plex pass to stay in business. I wish they had more easy Nas stuff built in personally.

    • Tay says:

      They should abandon the lifetime pass. I’d rather pay a small yearly fee to have unrestricted control over my library, than for plex to stop offering services because they aren’t as profitable anymore.

      • danny19901 says:

        I had bought the Plex Life pass as to me is best option for money I’ve been using Plex for about 1yr now and host a lot of my own content to family and friends

  6. Randy says:

    I use Plex and Emby both for my OTA DRVing.
    There are many times when one or the other will stop recording do to week or disrupted signals (mostly PLEX is the one that “gives up”).
    I have been saved many times by double recording ALL shows I want to DRV.
    I might try Jellyfin but I cannot figure out how to (easily) make it remote viewable like I do with Emby and Plex.

  7. FS_3 says:

    I have lifetime Plex and Emby licenses. I find I use Emby more now. Plex has too much junk I don’t care about. It started with adding podcasts several years ago. I just wish they would stay true to the users who have supported them for years and fix the stuff the users ask for.

  8. plexypasser says:

    Pretty sure Plex still hasn’t licensed ATSC3.0 yet. Hopefully they get that sorted if they’re leaning more this direction with TVs and such. That’s the only benefit I’d get out of this. I too only use Plex strictly for local media. But I’d gladly breakaway from Recast and buy a new DVR to use with Plex if they added ATSC3.0.

  9. Nate says:

    I have been a Plex user for many years and I do understand the need for revenue. I just hope they do not forget us that’s been on this ship many years. I have a huge library of movies and music that I also allow family to view or listen to in other locations. Still my go to and hope to remain for many years to come.

  10. TpNuts says:

    What are the chances plex fixes the download situation (not being able to remotely download) that has been promised for 5 years now. Probably 0 percent now that they care even less about local users…

  11. Bryan says:

    They haven’t invested much time or effort in the server/streaming part? Oh, we know.

  12. Ray P says:

    Dear Plex,

    Full ATSC 3.0 support ASAP please. You’ve been giving a lame excuse about “legal discussions” with Dolby for quite a while now.

    Sincerely,
    Lifetime Pass Members

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