The streaming field, already bursting with hundreds of competing services, has added one more: Plex.
Following through on an announcement from last summer about a pact with Warner Bros., Plex officially lifted the veil on its ad-supported streaming offering, which is now live in 200 countries. Along with Warner film and TV titles, the offering includes properties from the Lionsgate, MGM and Legendary libraries. The film-skewing roster includes Evil Dead, The Terminator and American Ultra.
In a blog post, Plex acknowledged it has plenty of streaming competition. Nevertheless, the company said it believes its advantage is an integrated product designed to synthesize music, podcasts and video in a single interface. “We're building on our decade of extreme passion for media to deliver the best experience possible, while also giving you the controls and customization to stream it your way,” the post said.
Additionally, the blog post asserted that Plex’s AVOD offering has the widest international reach of any comparable initiative to date. Its average ad load is about one-third that of cable TV, Plex added - which would put it in the range of 5 to 7 minutes of ads per hour.
Ad-supported streaming is an increasingly hot battleground within the larger streaming wars. NBCUniversal’s Peacock and WarnerMedia’s HBO Max are both expected to include AVOD elements when they launch next spring. Peacock may even give the service free to Comcast and Sky subscribers, or possibly a broader consumer footprint; commercials won’t enter the HBO Max mix until 2021. Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment acquired a controlling interest in Crackle and now operates a leading collection of AVOD platforms, competing with Tubi TV and Pluto TV, the latter of which was acquired by Viacom for $340 million last January.
Founded nearly 10 years ago, Plex began with the mission of trying to streamline the entertainment experience across multiple digital platforms. Its app has already featured live and recorded over-the-air TV, with news and sports, podcasts, web shows, news and more than 60 million streaming music tracks from Tidal, the service partly owned by rapper Jay-Z.
Many exhibitors, forced to close due to the coronavirus pandemic, have begun turning to digital options.
With the novel coronavirus pandemic having seen cinemas close around the world and distributors now scrapping the theatrical windows on a growing number of titles, many exhibitors have looked to digital options in order to keep their businesses flowing.
With this in mind, a new partnership between ScreenPlus and Vista Group will enable exhibitors that haven't already done so to launch their own personalized VOD platforms and offer films directly to their customers for at-home streaming.
The partnership will launch ScreenPlus' VOD solution in every major territory, promoted by Vista Group, whose software and technology solutions currently service more than 50 percent of cinema chains worldwide, including Cineworld and Regal, Landmark, Odeon, Curzon and Vue.
"The cinemas have lost out as a result of the current COVID-19 crisis, but this will potentially generate additional revenue and retain the relationships exhibitors have with their customers," said ScreenPlus director John Barnett.
“We have been working withShift72 to bring the ScreenPlus solution to our exhibition customers for some time," said Vista Group founder and chief product officer Murray Holdaway. "The outbreak of COVID-19 has seen us accelerate the release of the product to the exhibition market."
ScreenPlus has recently worked with SXSW, offering a secure platform for press and industry to view this year's entries, as well as the CPH:DOX Festival, which went virtual last month using the ScreenPlus technology. Shift72 has also powered markets for several years, including Cannes' Marché du Film, SXSW Film Festival and the AFM.