Plex Live TV: Everything You Need to Know

Dan Price 06-06-2017

The number of options available to potential cord-cutters keeps growing. And if you’re one of the growing number of people ditching their cable television subscription Everyone Else Is Cutting the Cord, So Why Aren't You? I cut the cord back in 2013 and more and more people are following suit, completely ditching their cable service. But not everyone is cutting the cord, and we decided to find out why... Read More in favor of streaming services, IPTV channels, and other online solutions, there’s a new weapon to add to your arsenal.

In May 2017, Plex announced it was going to start offering live TV channels to its users. The news adds yet another string to the software’s already impressive bow.

But who is eligible for the service? How can you access it? What’s going to be available? And how does it compare to other similar apps and services? Here’s everything you need to know about the new Plex Live TV service.

Who Can Use Plex Live TV?

First, the good news. Almost anyone in the world can use Plex Live TV. The service is available in North America, South America, the whole of Europe, and the Caribbean, as well as Australia, New Zealand, India, Japan, China, Indonesia, and most of the Middle East.

The bad news? Plex Live TV is not available to people without a Plex subscription (i.e. anyone who is using the free version of the app).

Dubbed “Plex Pass,” the premium service offers users three billing methods. A three-month pass (the shortest available) costs $14.99, a one-year subscription is $39.99, and a lifetime pass will set you back $119.99.

Of course, a Plex Pass offers more than just live TV. You’ll also get mobile sync, cloud sync, lyrics for your music, multi-user support, parental controls, and a whole lot more besides.

What’s Available on Plex Live TV?

Unlike the best unofficial Plex channels 20 Unofficial Plex Channels and Plugins You Should Install Right Now Want to unlock more Plex plugins? We show you how to access 20 of the best Plex channels to watch via the Unsupported AppStore. Read More , Plex Live TV offers free over-the-air (OTA) channels in your local area.

In practice, the channels available will vary drastically depending on where in the world you are located. Some countries have lots of OTA channels while others only have a couple.

However, if you’re based in the United States or the United Kingdom, the selection of channels is very impressive. Americans can enjoy ABC, FOX, NBC, PBS, and CBS, while Brits can tune into the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, and an assortment of music channels.

plex channels

There is no way to pick up channels outside your area using VPNs 11 Reasons Why You Need a VPN and What It Is Virtual private networks can protect your privacy. We explain what exactly they do and why you should use a VPN. Read More , DNS proxies, or other geo-unblocking tricks How to Access Region-Blocked Media on Android Here are several methods to access region-blocked content on Android, including services like Manga Rock and Webtoon. Read More . More on that later.

You can check to see what’s available in your locale using this tool on the Plex website.

What Other Features Are Available?

Live TV is only one part of the Plex’s new offering. The other part is a DVR function. The DVR has been in beta testing since late-2016, but the latest announcement has seen it move out of beta and gain a raft of new features in the process.

The DVR relies on Plex’s built-in program guide feature. It will let you easily search for shows and find content to watch 5 Ways to Find Good Movies or TV Shows to Watch Next on Netflix Netflix knows exactly what you want to watch, but its recommendations section isn't always helpful. Get fantastic recommendations with these apps and sites on what to watch next. Read More . You will be able to record movies, single episodes, entire series, news, documentaries, and sporting events.

plex dvr feature

Everything you record is instantly integrated alongside your existing media libraries, and will be available on all of your devices at the same time. DVR is also now available on all of the Plex apps; previously you had to set and manage recordings through the web app.

Because recordings are saved locally — either on your hard drive or NAS (Network Attached Storage) drive 7 Reasons to Use a NAS for Data Storage & Backups External hard drives are great for data storage, but there are many more benefits to using a network-attached drive instead. Here's everything you need to know. Read More — you’ll have as much space as you need and recordings will be available forever. This sets the feature apart from some of its competitors like Sling TV and YouTube TV, both of which have space and time restrictions.

What’s Missing?

While the DVR feature is now out of beta, the recent announcement marks the start of the beta cycle for live TV.

As such, some features are still missing. For users, the most annoying of these is a lack of support for time-shifting live TV. There’s no way to pause, fast-forward, or rewind. However, Plex has plans to add these features, and they should start to roll out soon.

How to Use Plex Live TV

And so on to the all-important question: how on Earth do you use the service? Let’s break it down.

Which Devices Offer Plex Live TV?

At the moment, the number of devices is limited. In fact, unless you own an Android TV system (like a set-top box or smart TV), or you have an Apple iOS device, you won’t be able to use the service.

But don’t despair, Plex has assured users that more devices will be coming online soon. Scott Olechowski, Plex’s Chief Product Officer and co-founder, said both Apple TV and Android mobile support would be available by Summer 2017, with more following thereafter.

What Equipment Do You Need?

Using Plex Live TV is not as simple as firing up the app and locating the channel you want to watch. You’ll also need to buy a digital TV antenna and a TV tuner.

It’s a quirk of both the way the Plex app works and the way the company has decided to implement the feature. You’re receiving content that’s already free to air in your geographic location, and Plex has not signed contracts with network providers and show creators.

plex live tv setup

The digital antenna can only receive and display TV signals that are literally in the air around you. That’s why there’s no way to hack the channel lists using VPNs et al.

If you’re not sure which tuner to buy, check out the popular HDHomeRun. It works with Windows, Linux, Nvidia Shield, OS X, and NAS systems, and is compatible with signals from around the world.

What Other Options Are Available?

Plex is not the first app to offer a local TV service. There are a few other ways to get your fix Sling TV vs. DirecTV Now vs. PlayStation Vue: How Do They Compare? In this article, you’ll learn the differences between three major OTT internet television streaming services: Sling TV, DirecTV Now, and PlayStation Vue. Read More , one of which is entirely free.

Will You Be Using Plex Live TV?

It’s still early days for Plex Live TV, but the initial signs are encouraging. Plex is remaining tight-lipped about the long-term plans for the service, but it’s clear the company hopes it’s going to become a major selling point in its bid to lure new users.

How impressed are you with the announcement? Could you see yourself setting up the live TV feature or do you think it’s too much hassle? Would you prefer to pay a small subscription fee to one of the paid services like YouTube TV or Sling TV instead?

Image Credit: Georgejmclittle via Shutterstock

Related topics: Plex, Sling TV, Television, XBMC Kodi, YouTube.

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  1. Sam
    July 8, 2019 at 2:50 am

    I'm really confused. I have a NAS installed in my house and have downloaded movies so I can stream them to my TVs around the house. I've started using the PLEX server on the NAS and can access from my smart TVs. Cool.

    I've tried to research the PLEX TV offer but I have no idea how to make it work. I don't intend to buy a PLEX pass until I know what this actually does. The PLEX web site is really no help - lots of nice photos but no information. What hardware do I need to run PLEX TV ? Right now, I have digital antennas connected to my TVs. I don't have cable. I don't understand what I need as a tuner ? I have AppleTV and Chromecast devises connected to my TVs. How do I make all this work.

    This all seems like a great solution but I cannot find how to make it work...

  2. kendra brown
    August 2, 2017 at 10:33 am

    is this similar to selecTV and do you have to have subscriptions to the other channel (ie ABC, NBC, etc) in order to have access to on on plex or SelecTV?

  3. Steve
    June 14, 2017 at 9:51 pm

    lifetime subscription. purchased the homerun the day they announced DVR functionality in beta. Plex is incredible, and keeps me from needing hulu, netflix, amazon, or cable.

    Running Plex server on a headless 2011 mac mini i5 with 8gb ram and a 64gb SSD - connected to more than 70TB of hard drive space using a Drobo b800i (8x5TB) and 2 drobo 5D's (5x5TB).

    I have Plex on every device I own, and the mini can stream to at least 8 devices at one time - tested as 6 local and 2 remote transcodes.

    The LIVE TV means that I can watch sports wherever I am as well as whenever I want. it is the ultimate media organization and personal distribution platform.

  4. Barrington Hogwhistle
    June 7, 2017 at 11:39 am

    Using this in the UK to watch any live tv, even free OTA channels, will still require an additional TV license.

  5. Tenderfoot
    June 7, 2017 at 4:14 am

    I'm currently running an open source program called "Mythbuntu TV" which from what I understand, is what Plex was originally based on. Mythbuntu is a great open source Linux basic Operating System combined with "MythTV" software. I have it running on an old 2005 model generic PC with 2GB RAM, a pretty basic single core CPU, AMD I think, and I have used an old 80GB Hard drive to store the operating system and MythTV software, and I simply added a 2 Terrabyte WD Red Hard Drive which holds all of my recorded (DVR'd) TV Shows and Movies. I also purchased a couple of the SiliconDust HDHomeRun "Extend" tuners which connect directly to an outdoor or indoor antenna and to your home network. Each of the HDHomeRun devices sports 2 independent ATSC Over The Air TV Tuners. These Tuners receive the TV Signal from my outdoor old standard antenna (There is no such thing as a "Digital" Antenna in case you were not aware... Just marketing hype!!) and processes it into a signal that can be directly fed through my home Local Area Network to the MythBuntu TV PC where the TV Show or Movie is stored for later viewing. The benefit of using the HDHomeRun "Extend" Model Dual Tuner box is that it has the ability to convert and compress the RAW OTA TV Signal into several types and sizes of MP4 video files that can be stored and/or played on just about any device on your home network. This whole package is called the "Backend" of the setup.

    The "Frontend" of the setup is the application and devices you use to actually control and watch your recorded TV Shows and Movies and even other Media. I use Windows PC's, Linux PC's, Tablets, Smart Phones, and both Amazon Fire TV Boxes and Sticks in my home. ALL of these devices have the ability to schedule and watch Live Streaming TV including Time Shifting of Live TV by using Pause, Rewind and Fast Forward of a Live Streaming TV Signal as well as playing all Recorded Shows. I acquire the TV Guide Data from the OTA Stations themselves which provide anywhere from about 12 hours of data up to about 3 Days of data to the guide. If that is not enough TV Guide data, one can subscribe to a service to get up to 14 days of listings for a small annual fee, but so far I have not had to do this. There are a variety of applications that can be used on each of the Frontend devices to view the content and control the recordings. SiliconDust provides stand alone applications that work well directly connecting to their tuners over the local home network (LAN), however these programs bypass the MythTV server and only provide Live Streaming TV viewing to your devices. SiliconDust has recently developed their own Personal Video Recording software that is coming along nicely but still has many limitations that need to be addressed. Plex recently announced their own DVR program and a Live TV streaming Programing that both use the SiliconDust HDHomeRun Tuners, but as of today, the DO NOT provide the ability to "Time Shift Live Streaming TV". I understand that is coming soon, but it's not available today from Plex. On the other hand, Mythbuntu currently provides all of this, and it can be accessed using a variety of programs on the Frontend devices. My personal favorite is Kodi Media Center or the SPMC Media Center which is another Open Source program that can run on pretty much any device you own including Windows, Android and Linux Devices, and many different dedicated TV Boxes such as the Amazon Fire TV box and Stick, Nvidia Shield, etc... I have been running this combo full time since November 2016 and while there have been a few bugs along the way, it provides all of the control I need and use every day. In addition, I subscribe to Playstation Vue which provides some traditional "Cable Channels" like ESPN, FS1, FS2, etc plus DVR and Time Shift functions for about $29.99 per month, no contracts for about 45 channels (NOT including my local Orlando OTA Channels which I receive through my outdoor antenna and SiliconDust HdHomeRun Extend Dual Tuner devices... Perfect ! )

    I will recoup my initial investment in hardware in less than 10 months, and from that moment forward, I will be saving over $1,200 per year compared to my old satellite subscription, AND have more content and pay channels for less monthly cost than I did using traditional Cable or Satellite subscriptions. I'm a happy camper, and you can be too!

    If the new Plex Live TV / DVR does indeed add the Time Shifting Ability to its software, I may make the switch from MythBuntuTV to Plex as the interface looks pretty nice and a 14 day guide would be nice to have. Plex has a few other "Nice to Have" items that MythBuntuTV does not have, and since MythTV developers recently announced they are not going to be making any further enhancements to the program, just simple maintenance fixes, it may be worth switching to Plex for new and upcoming features as well as continuing development.

    • Mike
      September 7, 2017 at 12:49 pm

      MythTV will and is continuing to receive updates, Mythbuntu OS will no longer be updated. I use the same setup that you use only a stronger server with Haupague tuners. I'm also using PLex to record my shows and only use MythTv to stream live TV. The second that Plex gets live TV streaming to Roku I will be dropping MythTv. The Plex setup just seems to run much smoother and the picture seems to be much better.

  6. Rick
    June 6, 2017 at 5:44 pm

    I understand that you can use Google, Dropbox, or OneDrive storage instead of NAS. I wonder if cloud storage means you don't have to have a computer on all the time also.

    • Jeff
      June 6, 2017 at 11:48 pm

      As a Plex user, yes, that means you don't have to leave a computer or NAS on all the time. But you do have to have a Cloud account with enough storage to handle recorded shows. I haven't tried the Cloud Plex yet. I use a Synology NAS. Works great. Low power consumption unlike a PC.

    • David Huet
      June 7, 2017 at 2:53 am

      You have to have the Plex server running in order to access cloud storage, or streaming, or local, or Live TV. The Plex app on your devices is only a client to the server, so the server must be up if you want to watch anything.