NEW YORK--DVR manufacturer TiVo will integrate Plex, a cloud-based personal media management and streaming system, into its service offerings beginning June 8, according to Plex's Scott Olechowski, co-founder and chief product officer. The announcement was made during a keynote here at Streaming Media East.
Plex allows users to organize all of the digital media on their various devices, from photos to music and movies, and display it in a relatively sane format through its app. Users can stream their digital videos or music through the app.
TiVo is making the app available on its TiVo Roamio, Mini and Premiere devices. Cable subscribers who have a TiVo set-top box provided by their operator can access Plex on TiVo T6, Quad, Preview, TiVo Mini, and XG1 devices
The difference between Plex and say, Chromecast? Unlike Chromecast, Plex's app is available on a wide array of devices--from iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, to desktops, to smart TVs, game consoles and most streaming devices. Further, users can point Plex toward any device they want to access media from, and that media will be available on the app. They can access that media on mobile devices from anywhere, and can share media with friends or family via a Plex account.
Tech pundits have discussed Plex becoming available on TiVo for several months, with ZatzNotFunny displaying a memo circulated in March at Revolution Digital noting that TiVo would be deploying new over-the-top applications from Plex, Vudu and iHeartRadio.
Plex's growth has been largely word of mouth, with very little outbound marketing, Olechowski said in the keynote. Despite that, the service has about 5 million households subscribed worldwide, and adds more than 300,000 users each month. Plex is the eight most-watched app on Roku, with 1.5 million Roku installs, he said.
The popularity of the service points to a global problem of digital storage and management, he said. In 2007, when Olechowski co-founded Plex, he was trying to solve a personal media management issue. He had 1,278 videos, more than 10,000 songs in his music collection, and over 82,000 digital photos scattered among six different devices. On top of that, his kids were at that age where they "watched the same thing over and over and over again." Plex was created as a way to make both storing and finding digital media simpler.
While Plex uses metadata to pull in information about a subscriber's digital media, store and display it in an attractive way, the service does not--for now--call itself a content discovery application. Olechowski explained in an interview with FierceOnlineVideo that Plex points to a consumer's owned digital content and does not yet natively include content from other online video providers like YouTube. Further, DRM and content licensing concerns have kept Plex from integrating Netflix or Hulu. Plex does have a deal in place with Vevo to include music video listings alongside matching artists in a subscriber's personal music collection.
With average household digital storage requirements predicted to grow to 3.3 TB by 2016, Plex is angling to provide a more comprehensive service than simply storing files. Olechowski noted that the personal storage market will reach $39.5 billion by 2019, with the cloud market to grow as much as 65 percent, to $100 billion, in five years.
Plex's integration with TiVo is a first step into a different media world--that of pay TV, and the nascent hybrid services segment that is arising with OTT providers like Netflix being made available to cable subscribers through their set-tops. While Olechowski said there are no plans at the moment to include its app on other STBs used by providers like Comcast, he added cryptically, "stay tuned."
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