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Plex universal search works with Netflix, Disney Plus, and more streaming apps

Published Apr 6th, 2022 11:07AM EDT
Watching TV on Netflix App
Image: JorgeEduardo/Adobe

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Plex has a new universal search feature in place that will significantly improve your streaming experience. The service will now let you look for a particular movie or TV show across all the streaming and rental services you subscribe to.

That means Plex universal search will solve one of the big problems many people deal with when consuming content from Netflix, Disney Plus, HBO Max, and other streamers: Where does one find a particular title?

The new Plex universal search feature

Deciding what to watch next on Netflix or any other streaming service is a chore. You often find yourself scrolling vertically and horizontally for minutes without picking a movie or series. The more people in the room, the longer it takes to settle on something new to watch.

Plex or any other service attempting to fix the universal search problem can’t prevent that Netflix problem. If you don’t have anything exciting in your queue and want to discover the next thing to binge on, the universal search feature won’t help you.

However, if you know exactly which movie or TV show you want to watch but don’t know where it’s streaming, you used to have to search each individual streaming service.

That’s where Plex can help with its universal search engine. And the feature is available to users free of charge.

All you need is the Plex app to get started. Plex wants to become the go-to app for all your streaming needs. People want one screen where they can search for specific shows and movies to watch. That’s what Plex told Protocol. And universal search is the pillar of such an experience.

Of note, a similar feature has been available for a long time on IMDb. But if you’re already a Plex user, it’ll be nice to now have a one-stop shop.

In addition to universal search, Plex is also launching a discovery section in the app that will highlight new titles just released on streaming services.

Plex universal search: Results for Bridgerton show Netflix is the only place to watch the show
Plex universal search: Results for Bridgerton show Netflix is the only place to watch the show. Image source: Plex

How it works

“The app dance, going from app to app to find something to watch, just doesn’t make any sense,” Plex’s senior product and design director Jason Williams said. “You’re going to open up Plex every day. It’s going to be your trusted source.”

The service will let you search for titles across every possible service, not just Netflix. Once you find your target, Plex will let you start streaming on that service, assuming you have an active subscription.

Plex universal search will surface results on various platforms without requiring the user to link to those streaming services first. In other words, you won’t have to have an active Netflix subscription linked to your Plex account to see Netflix results for your queries. But you’ll obviously need an account to start streaming.

Plex universal search should work on mobile devices, dongles,  and smart TVs. It also works on the web, as you can see above. Search for Bridgerton, and you’ll see that you can play it on Netflix. Click the link, and you go straight to the show’s page.

However, the feature is in beta. You’ll have to enroll in the beta to access the search in mobile apps. Gizmodo tested the feature on Android, finding it quite easy to use.

Plex supports a variety of streaming apps in addition to Netflix: Apple TV Plus, Disney Plus, HBO Max, Hulu, Paramount Plus, Pluto TV, Curiosity Stream, and Lifetime Movie Club. Even YouTube is supported, although YouTube TV titles won’t show up in Plex’s universal search.

Finally, Plex also has a new live TV feature that supports 80 channels and is available for free.

More Netflix coverage: For more Netflix news, check out our coverage of the latest new Netflix movies and series to watch.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.