Plex, where people typically avoid Hollywood fees, now offers movie rentals


Enlarge / Because sometimes your friend Tim, the one with all the legal media, is having server issues, but it’s movie night and the popcorn is already made.

Plex

Plex, the media center largely known as a hub for TV and movies that you and your friends obtained one way or another, now lets you pay for movie rentals. It’s both a convenient way to watch movies without having to hunt across multiple services, and yet another shift by Plex to be closer to the mainstream.

Plex’s first set of available films is more than 1,000 titles, with some notable recent-run offerings: Barbie, Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, Wonka, PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie, and so forth. As is typical of digital rentals, you have 30 days to start watching a movie and then 48 hours to finish it.

Prices at the moment range from $3.99 to $5.99. Conveniently, movies you rent on one platform can be played on any other. Even on Apple devices, or, as Plex puts it, “devices that don’t allow direct rentals on their platform.” Rentals are only available in the US, however.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Develop an audience of paying movie renters on a platform not exactly known for paid media.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Develop an audience of paying movie renters on a platform not exactly known for paid media.

Plex

Interestingly, Plex doesn’t offer movie purchases, and there is a reason why. Plex CEO Keith Valory told TechCrunch that a purchase option “creates some additional wrinkles—now you’ve got to keep this locker for people long-term and does that really make sense [for us]?” It’s true that platforms brokering purchases between users and media conglomerates can find themselves in awkward spots, like Sony almost having deleted all Discovery content bought by PlayStation users. That kind of scenario is also, of course, the kind of thing that initially made Plex appealing to people with their own content to store.

Plex had originally planned to offer media rentals as far back as 2020 but shifted priorities when the pandemic, and its seismic shift toward streaming, gave it new targets. As a company, Plex pivoted to becoming a kind of collector of streaming services so that when you wanted to watch something, you could head to Plex and head out from there. It has previously added free ad-supported streaming of TV and movies to its platform, along with support for over-the-air antenna TV.

In that view of Plex, movie rentals make total sense; you might see that Apple TV+ or Disney+ subscribers can see a certain movie for free, but rather than set up a new cancellation reminder on your calendar, you can just pay one time and watch it.

For lots of Plex users, however, movie rentals are likely to be something nice to have, if not essential. The service today serves as a refuge from app-switching, unreliable media availability, and rapidly escalating subscription prices. It can play your own legally rendered backups of media you rightfully own, or it can connect you to friends or superusers who have… a huge number of legally rendered backups of media they rightfully own.

Given a choice, however, Plex users might be glad to throw their fancy-coffee-plus-tip rental fees to Plex rather than any one streaming silo just to keep the service funded and updated.



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