Streaming media service Plex is stepping into the ad-supported streaming movie business today by launching free movies, documentaries and TV programs via its advertising-based video-on-demand offering.

The service is subscription free and doesn’t require any special hardware. Content resolution will be offered in up to Full HD 1080p.

The free movie offerings are part of the Plex app that is widely available in app stores of most of the major streaming media devices and smart TV platforms. Supporting platforms and devices at launch include Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, PlayStation, Xbox, and many Smart TVs.

Access is also available via browser on a smartphone, laptop or PC at this link.

Once the app is downloaded, users will need to sign up for a free Plex account to gain access to “thousands” of movie titles, the company said. Content is arranged via categories for simplicity of navigation. These include Kids & Family, Action, Sci-Fi, Comedy, Drama, Thriller, Anime and others.

Plex said it has reached agreements for content from major Hollywood studios including: Warner Bros, MGM and Lionsgate.

Plex said the ads that run during playback will have only “minimal” ad interruptions as well as ads that run before and after the program. We found commercial interruptions about every 10 minutes running three ads at a clip. Some of these sponsors are national in scope, but we found a number were targeted to the local viewing market as well (not unlike what is seen on other platforms, like Pluto).

With the service, Plex will go up against a number of free movie streaming apps and app-services that rely on advertising for revenue generation. These include such popular apps as The Roku Channel, Vudu, Pluto, Tubi and others.

The differentiator is that Plex promises to offer a number of free movie selections exclusively for a limited time each month. It is also making the AVOD movie services available “in more than 200 countries, making it the most widely available AVOD offering in the industry,” the company said.

“Starting today, Plex will deliver more content to more countries than any other free streaming service to date,” the company said in blog announcing the launch. “We wanted to offer more entertainment—both classics and new favorites—and do so in a way that is high-quality (for those who care about encoding quality) while serving only about one-third the amount of ads you’d expect on cable television.”

Selections include large libraries of former box office hits including: “Terminator,” “The Right Stuff,” “Thelma & Louise,” “Rain Main,” “Apocalypse Now Final Cut,” “Teen Wolf” and “Raging Bull,” among many others. But title availability will vary by the region of the world where the service is accessed.

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Plex said that “over time, we’ll be adding more stuff from different studios and creators—from Oscar-winning Hollywood movies to the latest from India, Russia, China, Japan, Africa, Latin America, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe to really cool independent movies fresh off the festival circuit.”

Plex offers a paid “Plex Pass” subscription as part of its service, but Plex said this will not allow subscribers to bypass commercials on the Movies & TV portion of the service. There’s no way to skip the commercials as this is how Plex pays for the movies it provides.

For background, the Plex Pass subscription is said to offer “the best Plex experience available” including access to beta (preview) release versions of Plex Media Server and some other apps (such as Plex Media Player) before they’re released generally.

Plex said that users will not see ads in personal content. In addition, no third parties will have “any access or visibility into the content or metadata that our users have in their personal media collection”. A Plex Pass will not remove ads or reduce frequency,” the company said.

Further information is available here.

By Greg Tarr

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