It just keeps getting easier and easier to watch live TV without having to pay for a traditional cable or satellite connection. Plex announced today that Plex Live TV--which, as its name makes pretty clear, is the company's live television service--is now available in its Android TV and iOS apps.
At this rate, it kinda feels like we should write up a boilerplate for video companies getting into the live TV market. In recent months we've seen YouTube, Hulu, and DirecTV join the likes of PlayStation Vue and Sling TV in the race to let you watch videos the moment they're broadcast. That's quite the assortment of companies: YouTube, Hulu, and Sling are all about video streaming; DirecTV is a satellite TV provider; and PlayStation is traditionally focused on games. (Though, in the interest of fairness, Sony itself does operate in many aspects of the entertainment business.)
Plex is different still. The service was previously focused on making it easy to set up home media servers that allowed you to access your content from pretty much anywhere. Then, in September 2016, the company introduced Plex DVR to make it easier for you to record television shows via free over-the-air broadcasts. The process still isn't as simple as watching live TV via YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV, etc. though. You have to set up a digital antenna and digital tuner, sign up for a Plex Pass subscription, and then manage everything else via the company's assorted applications.
That distinction will help Plex Live TV stand out from the crowd. Where other services want to help you cut the cord, Plex is all about installing your own cords. The difference is that you're in charge--and, aside from the Plex Pass subscription, you don't have to pay anything for high definition over-the-air broadcasts. Plex Live TV's upfront costs are higher than competitive offerings, and you're limited by your ability to pick up those over-the-air signals, but once it's up and running you'll spend far less ($5) per month than with competitive services, which range between $20-$75.
Plex said in its announcement that it's improved its DVR utility beyond the addition of Plex Live TV. It's now compatible with more tuners and will allow you to manage your recordings straight from the Android TV or iOS apps. "In the process of building Live TV support, we’ve seriously leveled up our core DVR engine," the company said. "The scheduler is even smarter, and it handles overlapping recordings on the same channel as well as the ability to watch live and record simultaneously." These under-the-hood improvements are now available to all Plex DVR users.
If you're thinking of cutting the cord--or installing some different ones, if Plex Live TV sounds appealing--you should check out our comparison of the top live TV services. We looked at price, channel selection, platforms, and more to help you decide which of these services is right for you.
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Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.