Plex’s free DStv competitor tested

MyBroadband tested the new media aggregation feature on Plex, and we found it easy to set up and very useful.

Plex is a client-server media player platform where users can set up their own server with local content, and then stream from that to various devices.

You can also use the Plex app without connecting it to a media server to access the platform’s own online streaming features.

This includes a catalogue of older movies, and Plex’s new “Discover” function that lists content from several services in one place.

MultiChoice has repeatedly expressed plans to become an entertainment super-aggregator — offering a one-stop shop for various streaming services alongside DStv.

It recently launched “bundle and save” options for Disney+. This offers DStv subscribers a R49 per month discount if they take up a Disney+ subscription within their DStv package.

MultiChoice also lets subscribers watch Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and YouTube from its Explora Ultra decoder.

However, DStv’s aggregation capabilities mostly remain limited to its most expensive decoder.

DStv Explora Ultra
DStv Explora Ultra

In August 2020, MultiChoice announced plans to launch a streaming media box — the Streama. However, the launch has been delayed.

As streaming services supplant traditional broadcast TV, MultiChoice is on a collision course with the world’s technology and entertainment powerhouses.

It will compete against Apple TV with its media box and aggregation services, and could find itself bidding against Amazon, Google, and Disney for sports rights in the near future.

With Plex entering the streaming service aggregation fray, MultiChoice now faces another global contender — which is also available for free.

Although Plex has a paid version available, we did all our testing on a free account.

Plex’s new Discover feature lets users set which streaming services they have access to, and indexes the content on these services for easy access.

Plex can then direct you to the appropriate streaming service when searching for a movie or TV show.

If you have your own media server connected and the film or episode is available there, Plex will let you know.

You don’t need to provide Plex with any account details for this feature to work.

It only directs you to the correct app or website, and content from other services does not play inside Plex.

When a movie or series is available on both a streaming service and your own media server, the local version is preferred. However, you can still access other sources.

We tested Plex’s new cross-platform search with Netflix and Prime Video, and it performed perfectly.

Other streaming services available in South Africa like Showmax, BoxOffice and Britbox are also available.

We started by searching for The Wheel of Time and immediately got a result with a link to Prime Video.

As we were already logged into Prime Video on the device, we were directed to the summary page for The Wheel of Time and could start streaming.

We tried the same thing for The Witcher and were directed to Netflix with the same efficiency.

Plex Discover — Searching for Night of the Living Dead (Click to enlarge)

We also saved a local copy of Night of the Living Dead to see how it performs when media is available from more than one source.

When searching in the top search bar, the local version came up on top and clicking it did not give us the option for other services.

Clicking the option lower down in the search results gives multiple options, including the local version and the one on Prime Video.

Night of the Living Dead listing on Plex

We attempted the same searches from a Xiaomi Mi Box. When opening the links to Netflix and Prime Video, the respective apps opened immediately on the summary pages for the specific content.

Plex also has a “Discover” tab now, which shows you top and trending titles based on the streaming services that you have selected.

This looks and works a lot like being in the respective streaming service apps and makes it easier to find something to watch, regardless of the service on which it is available.

Unfortunately, it also had general sub-headings where top titles from services you did not select are highlighted. We regularly got excited to watch something while browsing here, only to discover it was not on a streaming platform we had available.

While Plex’s new aggregation service is still in beta, it is already a helpful feature. It could make Plex worth it even for people who don’t run their own media servers.

Now read: Disney+ South Africa launch event — photos and videos

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Plex’s free DStv competitor tested