Updated: Added clearer specifics on how to setup HDTV streaming on a Plex media server.
On Thursday, Plex joined the numerous other apps and services that offer live streaming TV without a cable subscription — albeit with a slightly different configuration than what you get with, say, YouTube TV, SlingTV, among others. Live TV on Plex will first be available on Android TV and iOS devices. Further devices will be supported in the future.
Unlike the aforementioned over-the-top (OTT) live-TV services, Plex does not have any channel packages or on-demand content. In fact, no live-TV content is supported by the app itself. Much like how Plex acts as a solution for streaming your own videos, music, and pictures from one device on another, Plex’s live-TV feature needs to access an outside TV source — in this case either HDTV signals through an antenna and USB tuner, or a cable card-enabled tuner. The digital antenna plugs directly into the USB tuner connected to your Plex media server, and after configuring your signal through the Plex media server app, you will then be able to watch live TV through any supported device (currently only iOS and Android TV) from anywhere. Live TV can also be watched directly on Android TV devices being used by a media server, such as the Nvidia Shield.
You also need a Plex Pass, which is Plex’s premium service that provides a number of handy features for your media server, including DVR, which was launched on the service last year. Plex Pass is available at three different price points, $5 for one month, $40 for one year, or $120 for a lifetime pass.
Using Plex to watch live, over-the-air HDTV will have its benefits over simply watching through an antenna alone.
As with other content stored on your Plex media device, the app will scrape metadata like art and episode information from the internet for whatever programming is coming through your antenna. Plex will use that info to adorn the TV guide while browsing what is on. The guide also features search functionality, voice command support, and will utilize your entire Plex content library to suggest programming you may enjoy.
Furthermore, you will be able to record live TV through Plex’s DVR feature. Simultaneous streams and multiple recordings will also be supported but will be dependent on the USB TV tuner you use. Plus, you will be able to watch your TV from any device connected to your Plex media server.
Time-shifting — fast forward, rewind, etc. — will be included in the service but will not be available until a further update later in June.
While Plex’s TV streaming looks and functions differently than the dedicated streaming services out there, it is also a vastly cheaper solution to cutting the cord without completely ditching TV, and it avoids the confusion or bloat often found with those services.