Plex Free TV and Movie Platform Adds Universal Streaming Search

Plex has launched a “universal search” tool for online streaming services and other video sources. It’s hardly a new idea, but works smoothly in the service’s various apps.

“Discover” is a beta feature available to all users on an opt-in basis at this stage. During a quick setup, you can select which apps and services you want to include. Compared with rival tools such as Just Watch and Google TV, this works well as you don’t have to see results for services you don’t use.

The selection is also customized for at least some countries: for example, as a UK user I saw most of the major streaming services from British broadcasters and none of the usual US-only apps that appear with such tools.

Once setup, the tool appears as a separate Discover tab in the apps that works much as you’d expect. You’ll see trailers and “trending content” from your chosen services, there’s a watch list, and the search tool works well. For example, I recently searched for The West Wing in the UK and sites such as Just Watch only brought up options to buy episodes. Plex Discover successfully identified it’s available here on the lesser-known ad-supported IMDB “channel” on Amazon Prime Video.

The search also covers your own media files, with Plex stressing this part is done entirely locally with no details of your files being processed on its own servers. Plex’s own content including movies and “virtual” TV channels is also covered as with standard searching. Results from your own local library always appear first.

The main limitation, which is completely understandable, is that you can’t play any of the results from third-party apps in the Plex Player. However, it does seem to do a good job of opening up the relevant app with the video ready to play rather than simply dumping you at the home screen.

The idea seems to be to get people into the habit of using Plex more often as the start point for all their media viewing. The tool works in free accounts, though Plex says it may add advanced features that are exclusive to Plex Pass later on.