Plex Discovery searches for Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, YouTube, and more.

Plex wants to help you decide what to watch.

Plex wants to help you decide what to watch.
Picture: Complex

Plex is the latest platform with ambitions to become a central hub for all your video streaming needs: a new feature called Discovery brings together services such as Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and Disney Plus in a single interface. You might just need to spend more time in Plex, or maybe just trying it out for the first time.

If you’re completely new to the Plex experience, you can think of it as a kind of private Netflix or Spotify that you run yourself. You provide the video and audio files, and Plex streams them to all your devices, whether it’s a smart TV upstairs in your house or a smartphone halfway around the world.

Some parts of Plex are free and some parts require a Plex pass, yours for $5 a month or $40 a year. The features we’re talking about here are available for free in Plex, although of course you’ll need to be signed up to the various streaming services you want to be able to search.

There are two parts in Plex: The server client that you install on the computer or NAS device which contains all your media, and then the various applications that you run on your other computers, as well as your smartphones, tablets, televisions and consoles. The server client finds, organizes, and serves all your media, and Plex apps can then be used to access it.

We’ll assume that Plex is already up and running on your devices, but if not, it’s not hard to get started: head over to Plex main site to create a free account and download the various software you need. You will be guided through all the necessary processes, step by step.

Choose the streaming services you subscribe to.

Choose the streaming services you subscribe to.
Screenshot: Complex

Find Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max and more

As of this writing, Plex features Discovery right on its front page: you can just start typing the name of any TV show or movie you’re looking for, and you’ll see matches from across the universe of streaming. Of Reach film series nomadlandthere is now a listing page for all of these titles on the Plex site, along with details on services where you can buy, rent or watch them as part of an existing subscription plan.

To start adding these titles to your own personal Plex experience, you can log in and open the Plex web app. You may be prompted to start adding streaming services as soon as you open the app, but if not, you can click on the Discover link on the left navigation bar (the compass icon), then Select my streaming services.

Discovery is available everywhere other than Plex, of course. From the mobile apps, tap the menu button (top left), then the gear icon and Streaming Services to configure the services that appear in the Plex interface. At present, it is the web application that offers the most comprehensive access to Discovery, but this may change over time.

The streaming apps you can connect to depend on where you are in the world, but Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus, HBO Max, and Hulu are all supported. The list of platforms you can access is longer and more comprehensive than we expected.

If you can stream something somewhere, Plex knows it.

If you can stream something somewhere, Plex knows it.
Screenshot: Complex

The plex is not perfect

You should limit your expectations though: your viewing isn’t synced to Plex, and in fact, you don’t even need to sign in to those other services. What Plex does is let you find out what’s in these other apps – hence the name of the feature – as well as list trends and recommendations through these alternative services.

A useful additional feature is a universal watchlist that you can manage in Plex. No matter where something is streaming, you can add it to this watchlist, and Plex will tell you where it can be found (and for how much, if any). It is similar to the Watchlist which is now accessible through Google TV.

In some cases, Plex may send you directly to the appropriate app when you select a title, but that depends on the device you’re on and the particular Plex app you’re using (you can’t stream from Netflix into Plex or something like that) . You may still need to manually switch to the other app on occasion to actually access your content.

It’s possible that some of these connections will drop over time, of course – Netflix would much rather you search for things on Netflix than on Plex – but so far it’s working just fine. When you search for something, you’ll see results from all your streaming apps as well as your Plex library, and you can choose how you want to watch something.

We should mention that Discovery is still labeled as beta, so you can expect a bug or two and new features to be introduced over time. It already works pretty well though, and there’s definitely some use here: Plex says that viewers in the United States spend a total of 600 million minutes per night deciding what to watch, a total that may well start to drop slightly, thanks to Discovery.

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