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Did Plex just kill the streaming media box?
If you’ve ever wished for a simpler way to manage all your streaming subscriptions and find what you want to watch quickly, easily, and without dropping a lot of cash, you may be in luck thanks to Plex Discover.
Streaming media service Plex has just rolled out the new Discover feature as part of its free subscription tier, solving this problem in a new and seemingly game-changing way. The new interface lets you integrate all of your favorite platforms, so you can search for the show or movie you want to watch, get a result telling you where to stream it, and be redirected there directly from Plex.
You can also create a single watchlist with titles from Netflix, Hulu, Apple TV Plus, and whatever other streamers you want included. And all of that stays in your account, so you can hop across devices and platforms to keep streaming from one app.
Read more: Plex just changed the streaming game
Isn’t that just what streaming media boxes do?
In some ways, Plex is indeed just recreating the centralized experience of a streaming media box like Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV. With those services, which plug into your TV, you can also search your various apps from one centralized search bar.
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With most media boxes, you can then also click straight through to the appropriate service when you find a title through the search function.
So, why is Plex special?
Plex Discover: The platform-agnostic game-changer?
Plex offers a few advantages over a traditional streaming media box, but they’re pretty big ones.
For one thing, you don’t have to buy a piece of hardware that’ll plug into your TV. In fact, you don’t have to buy anything. Starting at $149, an Apple TV set is a pretty big expense. Others are certainly cheaper, like the Amazon Fire Stick or Chromecast and Roku devices, but you’re still dropping money to access services you’re likely also paying for.
With Plex discover, there's nothing to buy, and you can hop across devices.
What those media boxes have in common, too, is that they’re tied to the device you plug them into. They’re convenient, no doubt, but their range is limited. If you already have a smart TV, they don’t do much that Plex can’t do now. If you don’t have a smart TV, then Plex’s offering means all you need is the cheapest option to get your TV online.
But here’s the kicker: your Plex preferences will follow you everywhere.
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While you might get similar overall tools on an Amazon Fire Stick, what about when you’re in bed watching TV on your laptop, or at the gym using a smartphone? What Plex discover offers is a platform-agnostic approach to centralizing your streaming services. Sign in to Plex from anywhere and you’ll have access to your universal watchlist. It’s the only app you’ll need going forward, if that’s what you want.
The death of the streaming media box
Plex may ultimately lose this fight if another company puts out a better interface or more user-friendly options, but this is a promising start. This is a new model for streaming that acknowledges how most of us actually watch TV and movies. We’re not always using the same device, and we’re not always at home. Why shouldn’t we have a single app regardless of where we are?
Just Watch, Letterboxd, and other apps and online services allow you to sort through various titles from different streaming services. And streaming media boxes do what Plex discover does from a single device. Virtually every player is primed to offer something like this if they choose to.
For now, Plex seems to have changed the rules and is taking the lead.
Continue reading: Streaming services are a mess, but JustWatch keeps me sane