Plex has officially jumped into the free ad-supported live TV space. The popular media platform surprised users recently by integrating over 80 live streaming channels into its software.
This new "Plex Live TV" offering delivers 24/7 live programming across news, sports, movies, and more. The rollout includes both well-known networks like Reuters and AFP and smaller independent channels. It aims to provide a diverse mix of content catering to a range of interests.
Unlike subscription services, Plex Live TV is 100% free to access. No Plex account, fees or setup is required. Users can simply download the Plex app on their streaming device to start watching live shows immediately. It represents Plex‘s first major expansion beyond their core media server software.
So how does Plex Live TV stack up against the competition? What are the pros and cons for cord-cutters? And what does this launch mean for the future of free streaming television? Let‘s take a deeper look.
Plex Looking to Take a Bite Out of Pluto TV
The launch of Plex Live TV feeds into the meteoric rise of free ad-supported streaming television. Established services like Pluto TV and Tubi have exploded in popularity over recent years. Pluto boasts over 70 million monthly active users as of 2022. Tubi streams over 1 billion hours of content each month.
Plex is aiming to grab a slice of this rapidly growing market. But they face stiff competition from an expanding array of tech giants investing heavily in the space:
Pluto TV – The current heavyweight in free streaming TV with over 300 channels and millions of users. Owned by Paramount.
Tubi – Fox-owned Tubi offers over 40,000 movies and shows on-demand and about 40 live channels. View time grew 400% in 2021.
Samsung TV Plus – Pre-installed on all new Samsung smart TVs. Offers 1200+ channels.
The Roku Channel – Roku‘s ad-supported channel with over 200 live linear streams.
IMDb TV – Amazon‘s free streaming service with thousands of on-demand titles and ~60 live channels.
Peacock – NBCUniversal‘s streaming platform including a free ad-supported tier.
And more heavy hitters like ESPN, Netflix and Disney are planning future entries into free streaming television as well.
For Plex to grab attention amidst this wave of massive media companies, they‘ll need to leverage their unique strengths…
How Plex Live TV Stacks Up to the Competition
Plex Live TV offers over 80 free channels out of the gate. While the total falls far short of Pluto TV‘s expansive lineup, the focus lies more on quality over quantity. Some key advantages:
Seamless Integration – For existing Plex users, no additional apps or accounts needed. Plex Live TV blends right into the slick Plex interface.
Solid Channel Mix – The overall channel selection provides variety across categories like news, sports, movies and more. Though lacks more niche options.
Established Brand – Leverages trust and goodwill built up by Plex‘s long-running media server platform.
Compared to competitors, Plex Live TV has room for improvement:
Limited Channels – Pluto, Sling, others offer many more viewing options. Light on local affiliates.
No DVR/On-Demand – Can‘t save or time shift programs. Lacks on-demand libraries.
Video Performance Issues – Some channels suffer from inconsistent quality and reliability.
Light on Features – No advanced guide or discovery features. Rudimentary interface.
While behind rivals in some respects, Plex Live TV delivers a quality free TV option for the company‘s devoted user base. Especially those using Plex Media Server to manage their media libraries. The integration with users‘ existing Plex ecosystem is the biggest draw.
Next let‘s walk through how to access and use Plex Live TV…
Getting Up and Running With Plex Live TV
Thanks to tight integration with Plex‘s existing offerings, their free live TV experience is a cinch to get started:
1. Download Plex – Get the Plex app for your streaming device – Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, smart TVs and more.
2. Open the App – Launch the Plex app and choose "Live TV" from the main menu.
3. Pick a Channel – Select from available live channels and start watching! No signup required.
4. Link With Plex Media Server (Optional) – If you already have a Plex media server, the Live TV guide and channels will appear right in your Plex dashboard.
The initial channel lineup spans 80+ options curated by Plex across categories like:
Movies – Revry, Maverick Black Cinema, Midnight Pulp
Sports – EDGEsport, SportsGrid, Fubo Sports Network
Finance – Yahoo Finance, TD Ameritrade Network
Music – Hip Hop Bangers, Hot R&B, 80s Party
Lifestyle – The Design Network, Hometalk, Cooking Panda
Kids – Toon Goggles, Kidoodle TV
And more! Plex aims to deliver varied content for the whole family.
It remains unclear if this initial lineup will expand over time. But for now it delivers a functional free TV experience perfect for casual viewing.
Next up, let‘s explore the various pros and cons of Plex Live TV for prospective streamers.
The Good and Bad of Plex Live TV
Plex Live TV packs some great perks for cord-cutters, including:
100% free – Requires no fees, contracts, accounts or equipment. Fully ad-supported.
No BS – Just open the app and start watching. No hunting for hidden costs or features.
Integrated Experience – Those with Plex Media Servers get everything in one place.
Quality over Quantity – Relatively small channel selection but focused on good programming.
Brand Reputation – Long-running trust in Plex as a top media platform.
Easy Start – Extremely simple to get up and running. Great for less tech-savvy users.
Global Channel Availability – Most channels available worldwide by default.
At the same time, some drawbacks exist:
Limited Channels – Far fewer options compared to some competitors like Pluto TV or The Roku Channel.
No DVR/VOD – Unable to pause, rewind or record live TV. Lacks on-demand libraries.
Technical Issues – Some channels suffer from poor video quality, buffering, or outage problems.
Light on Features – No advanced guide, profiles or personalization. Reliant on partners for tech.
Repeat Content – Programming tends to loop on some channels rather than airing a continuous feed.
Ad Overload – Aggressive ad frequency on a few channels degrades viewing experience.
Few Local Options – Scant live local network affiliates available.
Plex has room for improvement, but their free live TV service provides a great complimentary perk for media server users. For those new to Plex, it offers an easy entry point to evaluate the platform‘s capabilities.
What This Means for the Future of Streaming TV
The launch of Plex Live TV comes amid a period of rapid change and innovation for the streaming television landscape overall. Some key trends:
The Rise of Free Streaming TV – Ad-supported free services like Pluto are seeing explosive growth. Tubi streamed over 1 billion hours in 2021, a 400% YoY increase. These services now regularly top download charts.
Fragmentation Accelerates – Consumers face a dizzying array of streaming options. Plex Live TV adds yet another service vying for attention.
Ad Models Proliferate – Ad-supported tiers allow services to reach cost-conscious streamers. HBO Max, Paramount+ and Peacock now offer these options.
Niche Streaming Emerges – Speciality streamers focus on niches like anime, British TV, cult films and more. Services like AMC+ fill gaps in mainstream programming.
Tech Giants Lean Into Streaming – Amazon, Roku, Samsung and others now operate streaming services at large scale. Their data and reach provide huge advantages.
Cord-Cutting Hits Critical Mass – Over 50 million US households have now abandoned traditional pay TV. Streaming is the new normal.
As the streaming industry matures, Plex Live TV carves out a niche as a supplemental free TV option. It provides a value-add for Plex‘s media server users and helps broaden their appeal to general cord-cutters.
While it likely won‘t disrupt heavyweight free streaming platforms anytime soon, Plex Live TV ultimately gives consumers more choice. For cord-cutters, that‘s a win.
Final Thoughts on Plex‘s Free Live TV Offering
Plex Live TV makes for a nice perk for Plex Media Server users looking to consolidate streaming services. The ability to blend live programming and personal media libraries in a single app is compelling. And for more casual cord-cutters, it provides another freely available live TV option worth test driving.
But the service has noticeable gaps compared to more mature competitors. The limited channel selection, lack of DVR/on-demand features, and technical issues will limit its ability to pull users away from alternatives like Pluto TV or Sling Free.
Still, Plex Live TV provides a functional free live streaming experience from a trusted brand. And we expect steady improvements over time as Plex gathers feedback and usage data from its large customer base.
For cord-cutters seeking free live channels, Plex is now one more option for the mix. While not positioned to unseat market leaders anytime soon, this launch highlights Plex‘s expanding role as a centralized platform for both personal and live streaming content.