Today Plex is taking the wraps off its first live television offering: Plex Live TV, now available in beta. Combined with Plex DVR, the Plex platform is even more compelling for people hoping to cut the cord from their cable company. With today’s announcement, Plex is now a one-stop shop for live and recorded television, in addition to personal videos, images, and music, accessible from just about any device with a screen.
In addition to a Plex Pass subscription, Plex Live TV requires a digital tuner (and antenna) to suck down that free over-the-air signal — an option I’ll bet most of you have largely forgotten about. Once procured, you’ll have access to local news, live sports, and 86 of the 100 most popular US network television shows, according to Plex; from channels like ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, PBS, Univision, Telemundo, and many more.
Viewing Live TV is currently limited to Plex iOS devices, Android TV users, and the Nvidia Shield. By the end of June, Plex should be ready to support Live TV on Apple TV and Android mobile, according to Scott Olechowski, Chief Product Officer and Plex co-founder. Olechowski also says that Plex Pass subscribers should be able to timeshift Live TV in “another month or so.”
I’ve been testing the Live TV beta for the last few days with an HDHomeRun Extend digital tuner, and a macOS Plex Media Server streaming the live broadcasts to my iPhone. I can tell you that it works. Yesterday my streams were rock solid, but this morning I saw some buffering hiccups while watching live BBC and CNN broadcasts from my home in The Netherlands — I’d get about one to two seconds of buffering pauses after roughly three minutes of viewing, on average. I should also point out that I’ve watched more live television in the past few days than I have in the last few years so I’m not really the audience for this. Still, I can see the appeal for people who want that live TV fix, especially when factoring in Plex DVR recordings and future timeshifting support.
Plex likes to play up the “free TV” angle of today’s announcement but its Live and DVR solutions are far from free. First you’ll need to pony-up for a Plex Pass subscription at $4.99 each month, $39.99 a year, or $119.99 for a lifetime. You’ll also need to buy a compatible digital tuner (and antenna) — a one-time cost that will run between about $70 and $180 depending upon the features and quality you want. Oh, and you’ll need to keep your Plex Media server running all day in your home (consuming electricity) or in the cloud (consuming GBs).
Hey, nobody said cutting the cord would be cheap, but it is getting easier.