Popular and profitable, Plex wants to double down on personal media

Plex has long been associated with movies and TV shows that people rip from DVDs, record from TV or maybe even download from torrent sites. But as Plex is becoming available on more and more devices, people have increasingly been using it for personal media — and the makers of Plex are quite happy about that trend.

Plex’s Chief Product Officer Scott Olechowski told me during a meeting at CES in Las Vegas Tuesday that the company is investing a lot in improving the photo, music and home video experience on Plex.

Part of this new focus is already beginning to show: Plex’s recently-relaunched website describes the product as “one window into all of your personal media.” And Cloud Sync, a premium feature that taps into cloud storage solutions like Dropbox and Google Drive, could one day turn into a backup and sync solution that helps users to safekeep and share media at the same time.

Plex's new website already puts a big emphasis on personal media.

Plex’s new website already puts a big emphasis on personal media.

Olechowski didn’t get into details on how Cloud Sync will evolve, but he told me that syncing content has already proven to be immensely popular. Plex users have synced close to 400 terabytes of media since the feature launched a little over a year ago.

Right now, syncing is primarily used to download media to mobile devices for consumption on the go, or save videos on cloud storage providers to access them from any device. But one could also imagine that Plex could one day automatically sync all personal media across devices, making photos available on TVs and tablets soon after people have taken them. Interestingly enough, Olechowski mentioned Tim Bucher’s Lyve as a key competitor.

Another part of the puzzle that the Plex team has been focusing on recently is its companion app functionality, which allows Chromecast-like media beaming from mobile Plex apps to Plex apps on the TV screen. For example, Plex users can already launch media playback on the Plex Roku channel from their phone or tablet. Olechowski told me that the company plans to add more second screen-functionality to its mobile apps in the near future.

Plex currently employs close to 30 people, and recently opened an office in Los Gatos. It raised merely $1.4 million in 2010, and Olechowski said that it isn’t currently looking for additional funding. In fact, he said that Plex is profitable, and surprised me with the news that the vast majority of its revenue comes from its PlexPass subscription program, and not the money it is charging for apps on iTunes, Google Play and elsewhere.

So how many users does Plex exactly have? Olechowski didn’t want to tell me, and only said that it is in the millions, and growing: The company is “adding hundreds of thousands per month,” he said.