Power

Plex nabs $50 million investment as ad-supported video viewing surges

The startup is looking to revamp its ad-supported streaming channels soon.

Plex app

Plex has seen usage of its ad-supported video services grow 5x over the past 12 months.

Image: Plex

Amid growing demand for its ad-supported video services, streaming startup Plex has raised new funding from an existing investor: Toronto-based Intercap is investing a total of $50 million, with around $15 million going straight to the company as a new equity investment. The remaining $35 million will go toward purchasing shares from employees and early seed investors.

The investment comes at a time of industrywide growth for ad-supported video. Plex launched its own ad-supported video service in late 2019, and added free, ad-supported streaming channels last summer. The company saw usage for ad-supported video increase by 5x over the past 12 months, according to Plex CEO Keith Valory, who told Protocol this week that "millions of users" now stream ad-supported videos from Plex. "It's grown very quickly," he said.

As part of building out those services, Plex also began investing more into attracting new users to its platform. Encouraged by the results, the company decided to seek out new funding. "We [wanted to] start pouring more fuel into that and grow our business," Valory said.

In addition to attracting new users and optimizing its advertising business, Plex also plans to use some of the new cash for core product development. One of the next projects will be a redesign of its live TV guide, which will combine over-the-air television and live streaming channels into a single interface. Later this year, Plex aims to add paid content to its apps as well.

Plex is a bit of an outlier in the streaming-media space. While competitors like Tubi and Pluto have focused solely on ad-supported video, Plex has had a much broader product portfolio. The company got its start building apps for power users with large personal media collections. It has since incorporated a wide range of media, including podcasts, online news programming, streaming music, over-the-air television, ad-supported movies and TV shows, and retro video games.

With this approach, Plex wants to establish itself as a kind of one-stop-shop for its users' media needs. It has also allowed Plex to build a business with multiple revenue streams, which include a subscription tier for premium features. "We have been cash-flow positive ever since the Kleiner investment," Valory said. Plex secured a $10 million series B round of funding led by Kleiner Perkins in 2014, and hasn't raised more until now.

However, this breadth of content also means that Plex has been catering to a number of different audiences. Early adopters in particular have at times been vocal critics, with some lamenting that the company was spreading itself too thin. "They are holding our feet to the fire," acknowledged Valory, who said that the company was still investing "millions of dollars" into Plex's core media center functionality.

That group of early adopters is also a key reason why Plex wants to remain independent in the long run, with Valory ruling out the typical startup exit. "The company is not for sale," he told Protocol. "This is a long-term play."

Fintech

Gavin Newsom shows crypto some California love

“A more flexible approach is needed,” Gov. Newsom said in rejecting a bill that would require crypto companies to get a state license.

Strong bipartisan support wasn’t enough to convince Newsom that requiring crypto companies to register with the state’s Department of Financial Protection and Innovation is the smart path for California.

Photo: Jerod Harris/Getty Images for Vox Media

The Digital Financial Assets Law seemed like a legislative slam dunk in California for critics of the crypto industry.

But strong bipartisan support — it passed 71-0 in the state assembly and 31-6 in the Senate — wasn’t enough to convince Gov. Gavin Newsom that requiring crypto companies to register with the state’s Department of Financial Protection and Innovation is the smart path for California.

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.

Sponsored Content

Great products are built on strong patents

Experts say robust intellectual property protection is essential to ensure the long-term R&D required to innovate and maintain America's technology leadership.

Every great tech product that you rely on each day, from the smartphone in your pocket to your music streaming service and navigational system in the car, shares one important thing: part of its innovative design is protected by intellectual property (IP) laws.

From 5G to artificial intelligence, IP protection offers a powerful incentive for researchers to create ground-breaking products, and governmental leaders say its protection is an essential part of maintaining US technology leadership. To quote Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo: "intellectual property protection is vital for American innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Keep Reading Show less
James Daly
James Daly has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, including understanding various audiences and targeting messaging accordingly. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, particularly in launching new ventures and building passionate audiences. Daly has led teams large and small to multiple awards and quantifiable success through a strategy built on teamwork, passion, fact-checking, intelligence, analytics, and audience growth while meeting budget goals and production deadlines in fast-paced environments. Daly is the Editorial Director of 2030 Media and a contributor at Wired.
Workplace

Slack’s rallying cry at Dreamforce: No more meetings

It’s not all cartoon bears and therapy pigs — work conferences are a good place to talk about the future of work.

“We want people to be able to work in whatever way works for them with flexible schedules, in meetings and out of meetings,” Slack chief product officer Tamar Yehoshua told Protocol at Dreamforce 2022.

Photo: Marlena Sloss/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Dreamforce is primarily Salesforce’s show. But Slack wasn’t to be left out, especially as the primary connector between Salesforce and the mainstream working world.

The average knowledge worker spends more time using a communication tool like Slack than a CRM like Salesforce, positioning it as the best Salesforce product to concern itself with the future of work. In between meeting a therapy pig and meditating by the Dreamforce waterfall, Protocol sat down with several Slack execs and conference-goers to chat about the shifting future.

Keep Reading Show less
Lizzy Lawrence

Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She's a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school's independent newspaper. She's based in D.C., and can be reached at llawrence@protocol.com.

LA is a growing tech hub. But not everyone may fit.

LA has a housing crisis similar to Silicon Valley’s. And single-family-zoning laws are mostly to blame.

As the number of tech companies in the region grows, so does the number of tech workers, whose high salaries put them at an advantage in both LA's renting and buying markets.

Photo: Nat Rubio-Licht/Protocol

LA’s tech scene is on the rise. The number of unicorn companies in Los Angeles is growing, and the city has become the third-largest startup ecosystem nationally behind the Bay Area and New York with more than 4,000 VC-backed startups in industries ranging from aerospace to creators. As the number of tech companies in the region grows, so does the number of tech workers. The city is quickly becoming more and more like Silicon Valley — a new startup and a dozen tech workers on every corner and companies like Google, Netflix, and Twitter setting up offices there.

But with growth comes growing pains. Los Angeles, especially the burgeoning Silicon Beach area — which includes Santa Monica, Venice, and Marina del Rey — shares something in common with its namesake Silicon Valley: a severe lack of housing.

Keep Reading Show less
Nat Rubio-Licht

Nat Rubio-Licht is a Los Angeles-based news writer at Protocol. They graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in newspaper and online journalism in May 2020. Prior to joining the team, they worked at the Los Angeles Business Journal as a technology and aerospace reporter.

Policy

SFPD can now surveil a private camera network funded by Ripple chair

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a policy that the ACLU and EFF argue will further criminalize marginalized groups.

SFPD will be able to temporarily tap into private surveillance networks in certain circumstances.

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Ripple chairman and co-founder Chris Larsen has been funding a network of security cameras throughout San Francisco for a decade. Now, the city has given its police department the green light to monitor the feeds from those cameras — and any other private surveillance devices in the city — in real time, whether or not a crime has been committed.

This week, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors approved a controversial plan to allow SFPD to temporarily tap into private surveillance networks during life-threatening emergencies, large events, and in the course of criminal investigations, including investigations of misdemeanors. The decision came despite fervent opposition from groups, including the ACLU of Northern California and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which say the police department’s new authority will be misused against protesters and marginalized groups in a city that has been a bastion for both.

Keep Reading Show less
Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.

Latest Stories
Bulletins