Plex pulls the plug on podcasts and web shows

A week after launching a new universal search and discovery tool, Plex is inconveniencing podcast listeners by removing support for podcasts and web shows this Friday, April 15.

The company wrote in a forum:

As part of our ongoing effort to make sure we’re spending our time and energy in ways that best serve our awesome user community, we’ve made the decision to end support for Podcasts and Web Shows within Plex. We recognize this decision will impact several of you greatly, and we apologize for the inconvenience it will cause. You can continue to access these features within Plex until Friday, April 15th, 2022, at which point they will no longer be available.

Podcasts within Plex were first added in 2018 as were Web Shows but it’s unclear how popular they were on the service which is today primarily focused on streaming TV and movies. Plex said it is removing this content because the company wants to spend “time and energy in ways that best serve our awesome user community.” This likely references Plex’s increased focus on its free, ad-supported streaming service that’s now driving the company’s revenues.

A spokesperson told TechCrunch that there was a lack of interest in Plex Podcasts from users, therefore, a decision was made to get rid of them. While there isn’t a reported user number for this feature, the usage was “quite low.”

Plex told users they could download their list of podcast subscriptions in OPML format by following Plex’s instructions on how to replace the TOKEN with your own X-Plex-Token value — a somewhat technical process that may not make sense for casual users to attempt.

It’s not surprising that they’re throwing in the towel, being that users have constantly complained about buggy functionality such as playback, episode sorting and podcast management. One user wrote in Plex’s support forum, “Podcast experience wasn’t that great on Plex tbh and couldn’t see better development nor bug fixes, so it was wise to let it go to put resources elsewhere.”

When asked if Plex had any plans to offer a way to access podcasts down the road, the spokesperson responded that the company is exploring different options and “We expect audio to remain a competency over time.” Plexamp, the Plex music player, was recently upgraded in the last couple of months, with faster and smoother navigation, remote control support and other newly introduced features.

Meanwhile, Web Shows will close on the Plex media server, which is another blow to the service. This isn’t a permanent removal, however, and apparently, it will “live on in other areas of the Plex app,” the announcement said. We also asked Plex for details about the removals. The spokesperson said, “While web show support is ending, we did observe that the best performing content was entertainment-related so we hope to bring that type of content into the right context across the app over time.” We were told that about 8,000 hours of web show content were removed from Plex.

Last week, TechCrunch reported the addition of the new Discover section, making it easier to discover, search and personalize streaming content across subscriptions to Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu and others. Plex also has free Live TV channels to give users a “daily fix of news, tech and gaming, cooking, travel, classic films, and more.”

These changes indicate a company that’s now more focused on the parts of the business that are making it money — not surprising given the $50 million growth equity round Plex raised last year to fuel its ad-supported streaming service. However, they do serve a blow to Plex’s stated mission of being a “one-stop-shop” for organizing all users’ media, including photos, music, audio, TV, movies and more.

Updated 4/12/22, 2:48 p.m. EDT with direct quotes from Plex spokesperson.