Ad-supported streaming service Plex won’t be making an official presentation at this week’s NewFronts, but it is planning to make an impression on New Yorkers, including those who buy media.
Plex has made a six-figure out-of-home ad buy, putting messages in locations including LaGuardia and Kennedy airports, the Moynihan train station and key spots around midtown.
The message is that Plex helps viewers solve the “streaming struggle,” the difficulty many viewers have finding something to watch, particularly on connected TV.
“This is our brand-building campaign. This year it just happens to align with the timing of the NewFront,” said Scott Hancock, VP of marketing at Plex. “Absolutely we’re targeting those media buyers, but it's really more about a consumer-focused campaign.”
Plex is aiming to help viewers find what they want to watch, pointing to statistics that show that consumers waste six minutes every night searching for content. This month it launched Discovery, which lets users search for content and provides deep links to platforms where the content can be watched. It also started offering a Universal watch list to help keep viewers up to date on shows they’re interested in watching, regardless of what service they’re on.
In the first couple of weeks Plex saw more than 4.5 million search sessions. As a result hundreds of thousands of movies and shows were deep-linked through the platform, with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney Plus the most popular destinations. About 1 million movies and shows were saved to Plex watchlists in the first week across Android, iOS, Apple TV, Roku, Samsung and LG Smart TVs.
"We're basically trying to simplify that whole experience of finding the content and discovering content, based on the services you have, as well as introduce you to other services you may not have," Hancock said.
Plex is a member of IAB and thought about making a formal NewFront presentation. “We were considering it, but given our role as more of an aggregator and platform as opposed to a content provider or a content manufacturer, it made sense for us to participate in another way,” Hancock said.
But Hancock added that Plex is “really focused on building the ad supported business that’s growing like crazy.”
“We continue to see an enormous amount of money shifting from traditional linear over to streaming,” said Plex CRO Harold Morgenstern, a Discovery vet who ran Pluto TV’s ad sales before Pluto was integrated into ViacomCBS, now Paramount. “We’re fortunate and find ourselves in a very good position right now.”
"Some compare today’s streaming boom with the early days of cable. Streaming is a lot more accelerated, a lot more complex, and technical, than cable was back in the day,” Morgenstern said. “We like to say streaming offers the power of television with the measurement of digital.”
Plex’s sales are programmatic first, Morgenstern said. "We believe that the agencies and the direct marketers want to facilitate transactions through the most efficient, transparent and effective means and that is via programmatic," he said.
Plex has Magnite as its preferred supply-side platform partner, with SpringServe as its ad server. Its inventory also flows through the pipe of the other top SSPs, Morgenstern said.
Increasingly, advertisers are looking to do direct deals with Plex, Morgenstern said.
That has Plex slowly adding direct sales executives and it now has four or five on the payroll. “I like to refer to them as brand ambassadors,” Morgenstern said. “As we scale, we’ll continue to add people on. They’ll go out to each of the major holding companies and ensure that our value proposition is well represented across the advertising landscape.”
Morgenstern expects Plex to do some upfront business this year. “We are getting some RFS,” he said adding, “we’ve been doing very well in scatter. There’s just so much money.”
Plex also has a relationship with Crackle Plus, a key supplier of content. Crackle Plus is enabled to sell inventory in Crackle content when it appear on the Plex platform. When Crackle needs additional impressions, it can also sell inventory in other content on the Plex platform. “We’ll look at it on a case-by-case basis and find mutually agreeable pricing. They have that unique ability right now.”
Next year, Plex might be ready to sell ads on its Discovery and Watch List pages once they’re better established. And it might make an official NewFront presentation.
“We might participate if it makes sense for us. This year, it really didn’t make sense,” Hancock said. ■
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Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.