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Plex Flexes Into OTT Content

Plex, the company behind a popular streaming app that helps users organize and view locally stored and cloud-based video and other media on multiple devices, is getting into the content game.

It will focus first on news, following its acquisition of Watchup, an ad-based streaming news service that aggregates content from a wide range of sources.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but the near-term plan is to integrate Watchup into Plex, which already supports several platforms, including Nvidia Shield, Xbox One and Xbox 360, Play-Station 3 and PS4, several smart TVs, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Roku players, Web browsers and TiVo boxes, as well as iOS, Android and Windows Mobile devices.

Watchup, meanwhile, has launched apps for Android, iOS (including WatchOS), Amazon Fire TV, and the Wii U console.

Plex expects to be in position to stitch in and launch Watchup on an initial batch of clients by the second quarter of 2017, Keith Valory, Plex’s CEO, said. Plex and Watchup started to discuss an integration plan last year, but that those talks evolved into M&A discussions.

“I think we both quickly realized that it would make sense if the user experience was more tightly coupled,” he said.

Founded in 2012, Watchup grew up as an adbased offering. While it’s too early to discuss future business models for Watchup, “We are approaching this now as a clean slate and we’re open to new creative ideas,” Adriano Farano, Watchup’s CEO and founder, said.

Plex said it has helped more than 10 million consumers organize and stream their media. Farano said Watchup has about 200,000 registered users. Most are based in the U.S., but the company has been expanding partnerships to reach consumers on a global basis, he said.

Farano also confirmed that all of Watchup’s existing agreements with publishers have been carried over to Plex. There are more than 150 of those, but examples include CBS, CNN, Vox, Sky News, CNET, Euronews, Hearst Television, as well as Watchup investors such as Tribune Media, McClatchy and Turner.

All nine employees of Watchup are joining Plex, the companies said.

“We didn’t have these capabilities in-house,” Valory said of the Watchup acquisition. “We weren’t looking for synergies or a way to save money on the deal.”

But he said Watchup also fits into Plex’s strategy to appeal to cord-cutters and cord-nevers.

Last year, Plex complemented its local media capabilities with a deeper push into the cloud as it tightened its ability to work with cloud storage specialists like Google Drive, Dropbox and Microsoft OneDrive. Another recent addition was the Plex DVR, a product that enables users to record free digital broadcast TV channels.