Plex adds personalized, streaming news to its media player software

Media player software maker Plex is today making good on its acquisition of streaming news startup Watchup from earlier this year with the integration of a dedicated news hub within its app. The feature delivers a way to browse and discover news from publishers worldwide, and introduces a personalized newscast that adapts to your interests based on what programming you watch and skip, among other things.

However, Plex’s Director of Product and Growth, Jason Williams, clarifies to TechCrunch, this newscast will not send users into a “news bubble.” It will still include globally relevant news, balanced coverage, and those news stories that it’s important for everyone to know, he says.

You’ll see the personalized newscast, called “My Newscast” immediately after you tap into the news hub on Plex. Instead of a short briefing – like the NBC News show on Snapchat, for example – Plex’s “My Newscast” actually consists of several news clips from various sources that are, on average, 3 or 4 minutes long. As you watch, you can choose to follow or mute the source to inform the feature’s recommendation technology.

You can also follow or mute the topics that are displayed next to the video you’re viewing. Plex says it uses machine learning technology to perform data extraction, along with other techniques, in order to classify a piece of video content.

That way, Plex users can choose to follow a topic they care about – like “video games” or a person’s name, for instance – in order to make sure they don’t miss any news on the subject.

The newscast is also personalized from first launch, as Plex will walk you through an experience where you configure it with your interests, like “Politics & Government,” “Business,” “Arts & Entertainment,” “Science & Technology,” and other high-level topics, as well as provide your location and zip code.

The latter is used to deliver local news via Plex’s agreements with various affiliate stations around the U.S. The company says it currently has deals in place in around 80 percent of U.S. markets, and in some international ones, too.

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In addition to the personalized newscast, the News feature can also be used more traditionally to do things like browse by channel, category or to perform a topical search.

At launch, Plex is working with over 190 global publisher partners, including big names like CNN, CBS, Financial Times, Euronews, CNET, Scripps, Tribune Media, Hearst, Sky News, and others.

The news feature represents another form of monetization for Plex, too, notes Williams, as it’s free and ad-supported. That means it’s a feature everyone can access, not just Plex Pass subscribers, he says referring to the premium tier to Plex’s service, which today also includes the ability to watch and record live TV via a digital antenna.

But, he adds “advertising and monetization of content has no impact on the news items recommended.” In other words, Plex’s news selection won’t be biased, beyond the bias you yourself program in by nature of your own viewing behavior and explicit choices to mute and follow topics and sources.

The ads on Plex News will interrupt the programming roughly every 7 to 10 minutes (or every 3 or 4 news clips, depending on length).

In some cases, Plex is selling the ad space itself; at other times, it’s participating in a revenue share with the news source partner.

While some may see Plex’s expansion to serve up content itself as a step away from its original goal of helping users manage their personal media libraries, Williams argues that’s not the case.

“We’re making sure all the content that’s important to you is discoverable, searchable and organized in a fantastic fashion, and you’re able to consume it on any device, everywhere,” he says.

News video may not be only area that Plex expands into as it chases the potentially lucrative cord cutting market. The company has ambitions to bringing in other live content, starting with live news feed, potentially from third-parties, Williams notes.

Plex’s news feature is rolling out today, starting with Plex Pass subscribers and will make its way to all users over the course of the next 48 hours. Plex News will also work across platforms, including Android TV (including Nvidia Shield), Apple TV, Roku, Android mobile, and iOS.