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Plex streams clips of news you can use for free, with ads

The popular video app's News section aggregates on-demand video clips from 190 sources including CNN, CBS News, Newsy and local broadcast affiliates.


Ready for some good news? Or at least, a new News video clip aggregator?

Plex, best known for serving up your videos to any TV, phone or computer, rolls out a feature today that delivers video news clips from numerous sources.

The service, Plex News, is free as part of Plex's basic app, as opposed to some previous features, like live TV, that were restricted to Plex Pass subscribers. It also doesn't require setting up a Plex Server; all you need is the app. The catch? Ads.

News is a direct result of Plex's acquisition of free news app Watchup in January, and at launch more than 190 partners are on board. Major outlets include CNN, CBS News, The Financial Times, The Street, The Blaze, Cheddar, IGN, Newsy and more. 

Local news is also part of the picture: Plex says more than 80 percent of the U.S. population is covered by a local news station, like KTLA in Los Angeles. Numerous sources based outside the United States, including Sky News, Euronews and Ruptly in English, are also available. [Disclosure: CNET is one of the initial partners along with Gamespot, and both are owned by by CBS].


I got a quick tour of the new service from Plex's Director of Product and Growth, Jason Williams. He was quick to characterize the ads as less intrusive than on some other platforms, claiming that viewers won't see the first one until they watched around seven cumulative minutes of video. He also said longer clips wouldn't be interrupted mid-stream by an ad.

Click the News tab and you'll be taken to a page where the main news clip begins playing immediately, above a row of categories and other clips. Wait a few seconds and the main clip expands full-screen, and when it's over the next one starts. The effect is kind of a constant news feed from numerous sources.

There's also a new line of clips in Plex's main page called "My Newscast." The system uses machine learning to track which categories and clips you watch the most, and can train itself accordingly. You can also "Follow" and "Mute" sources you like or don't like, and tell the system which categories, like "Science and Technology" or "Sports," interest you most. 

Williams said there's no live news yet, but clips appear very quickly, usually within five minutes of being available on their original outlets. 

The service strikes me as a clever way to gather video news clips in a single place, and could help avoid creating your own news "bubble" of just a few major sources. The main problem -- the flipside of that coin -- is that Plex News lacks numerous popular sources like The New York Times, Buzzfeed, Fox News, MSNBC and many others. It seems designed more for the passive news consumer than a serious news junkie, who likely has many favorite sources not included in the service. Too bad there's no way to add your favorites manually.

Plex News will become available in the next couple of days to all Plex apps for iOS and Android phones and tablets, as well as Roku Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Android TV television-based devices. Other platforms will follow soon.