Streaming media platform Plex, already an expansive service for personal media, free streaming TV, and new content discovery, is venturing into a new area with today’s launch of a new feature, Discover Together. The friends-focused feature is laying the groundwork to develop Plex as not just a streaming hub, but a streaming community. Initially, this includes the ability to add friends and see what they’re watching, bookmarking and how they’re rating shows and movies.
Over time, Plex plans to leverage community engagement to help power its recommendations and, potentially, allow for streamers to engage in discussions around favorite content. This could help the service better compete with online TV communities like TV Time, which combines a TV show tracker with active discussions around shows, movies, and individual episodes.
At launch, however, the Discover Together feature will remain fairly private. Plex users can fill out their profile on the app with information about their Plex Pass status, location, and more, then add friends individually using their Plex email or username. There is no address book upload or contact matching feature built-in at this time. Users can also choose which parts of their in-app activity they want to make visible to friends. Items including their Watchlist, Watch History and Ratings can each be set to either Private or Friends Only depending on what parts of your Plex usage you want to share.
Even if you set all items to be visible to friends, you can still hide select activities on an individual basis from the Discover section’s Activity feed. Here, you’ll tap on the three-dot menu next to items you’ve watched, watchlisted, or rated to hide them, if you choose. (So, for instance, if you don’t want your friends to know you’ve been binging your way through cheesy reality TV shows, you can remove those from being seen in their feeds, while keeping track of your episode viewing privately.)
After adding friends on the service, you’ll be able to scroll through the Activity feed to see what shows and movies they’ve been watching, saving and rating. Plex is considering a feature that would display your friends’ ratings on a show or movie’s title page, as well, alongside the Rotton Tomatoes ratings. But for the time being, the app will simply highlight if a friend has engaged with a title in an area below the “Add to Watchlist” button. You can click on that banner to see a curated stream of your friends’ activities with the show or movie in question.
From the Activity feed, you can communicate privately with friends through an in-app messaging feature available from a chat icon below their posts. This isn’t meant to be a fully-featured messaging client, but rather a way to send a quick text about the movie or show, which they can reply to. You can also share a title and a message directly with a friend or even a group of friends by clicking the Share icon on the title’s page in the app.
While in the past, Plex has launched its new features to all users in a more public format, it’s rolling out the beta test of Discover Together by announcing it in its forums and allowing users to opt-in. This way, Plex can ramp up the number of users for the feature more slowly, as each new user will need to invite their friends to the service to get started.
The feature is being beta tested on the web, iOS, and Android. It follows a major update to the streaming media platform this April which delivered a number of new additions including a universal watchlist, cross-service search and new discovery features — including the new Discover section where the Discover Together feature is now housed.
Plex believes the long-term potential for its community features will allow it to turn its app into a more social experience and a second-screen companion for TV viewing.
“One of the early goals…is to start sharing and getting recommendations from friends,” explains Plex co-founder and Chief Product Officer Scott Olechowski. “That’s how so many recommendations are made and shared in the real world and there’s just no concrete platform for doing that today. Our belief is that it should be integrated into the experience,” he continued.”It should just feel part of the fabric of the ecosystem.”