Plex CEO explains why his company bought Watchup and what’s next

Keith Valory

Plex made a splash last week when it acquired news service app Watchup. CEO Keith Valory said it helped fulfill a content category that many of Plex’s customers have been asking for.

With the addition of Watchup, Plex now adds video streams from various news publications to its existing integrated platform for local media that works across mobile devices, streaming boxes and smart TVs.

Valory said that even more importantly, the reason Plex bought Watchup instead of just partnering with it is because of the technology that Watchup brings, which Plex can apply broadly to other content types.

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“[Watchup has] a bunch of cool machine learning and artificial intelligence stuff that helps us personalize and get better at getting people what they want,” Valory told FierceOnlineVideo.

He also praised the somewhat “unsexy” capabilities that Watchup has built like hosting, transcoding and ingestion.

“[Watchup] has been very focused delivering the best news user experience,” said Valory, adding that more than 10% of Plex’s employees are dedicated to design and user experience.

Valory also praised the content experience of the Watchup team, which will now join Plex.

RELATED: Media app Plex acquires news service Watchup

By purchasing Watchup, Plex also gets access to the app’s more than 160 existing relationships with content providers, something Valory said would have taken Plex a “couple of years to build up.”

With the Watchup acquisition, Plex moves into a more competitive position within the broader online video industry. Valory says that, even though Plex is technically competing against video app giants like Netflix and Hulu, his company has differing goals that set it apart in the online video space.

He said apps that license or create original content are vying for time spent in app and that, while that statistic is important to Plex, it’s less concerned with stickiness.

Valory said something Plex provides media companies, including the publishers it is talking to now, is that Plex doesn’t necessarily need to lock people in and keep them in its platform.

“They may want to watch news in our app or they may want a path into a publisher’s more immersive experience,” Valory said.

The primary pain point Plex solves for content providers looking for an online video platform to help distribute their content is the lack of data provided by third-party distribution partners.

“We’re going to give you all the data you need to make sure that you understand your customers and can modify your content and essentially run your business as well as you can,” Valory said.

In addition to the data outflow, Valory said that Plex wants to provide a clearer way for providers to monetize content on Plex’s open platform by charging fees for the platform and the ecosystem as opposed to licensing agreements.

He said that Plex’s business model is different and it’s still in its early days with only the first real group of content providers coming in through its deal for Watchup but added that Plex has been talking to other content providers and feels that the story is resonating.

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