In a perfect world, you wouldn’t need apps like Reelgood, JustWatch, or Plex to keep track of your streaming TV options.
But while streaming platforms such as Roku and Apple TV have their own search and guide features built in, none of them fully achieve the kind of universal streaming guide that cord-cutters deserve. They don’t fully integrate with Netflix, for instance, and they’re often more interested in upselling you or promoting their own content than connecting you with relevant recommendations.
That’s where the aforementioned streaming guide apps come in. Each of them can suggest things to watch from the streaming services you actually use, and they offer watchlists to help you remember everything you’ve been meaning to check out. They also offer their own apps on streaming TV devices, so you can use them as a kind of alternative menu during moments of indecision.
Even so, Reelgood, JustWatch, and Plex each have their own flaws, so before you start using them for all your TV needs, take a moment to consider which one might be best for you.
Reelgood: Best design, middling app support
Jared Newman / Foundry
Reelgood has always been the slickest of the universal guide apps. It does a great job suggesting new movies and shows to watch, with recommendations based on your viewing habits along with menus for different genres. Each movie or show is clearly labeled with the streaming service it’s currently available on, along with ratings from both IMDb and Reelgood itself. The website also has a handy “leaving” menu so you can catch movies or shows before they become unavailable on your streaming services.
Tracking your shows is easy with Reelgood as well. Whenever you add a show to its watchlist, you can choose the most recent episode you’ve seen, and you can quickly mark additional episodes as watched as you go. The more you add to your list, the better Reelgood’s recommendations get.
Unfortunately, Reelgood has decided to stop development on its TV apps. While the Android TV/Google TV version still works, the Fire TV app is now riddled with error messages, and the Apple TV version can no longer launch playback in other apps.
Reelgood does offer a “Play to TV” function in its mobile apps, letting you launch content on your TV through a phone or tablet. Still, I’ve only gotten this to work on Roku devices, and having to use your phone for navigation isn’t always ideal. (Apparently this is a known issue that’s being worked on.) Without TV app support, Reelgood isn’t as useful as it once was.
Available on: Web, Android, iOS, Android TV/Google TV (for now)
JustWatch: Crude but functional
Jared Newman / Foundry
Compared to Reelgood, JustWatch is a step down on the design front. Its apps offer no easy way to browse by genre, and your watchlist is tucked away behind a secondary menu tab when it really ought to be the first thing you see. Individual show pages are also much sparser, with no supplemental info on actors, directors, or related programming.
That said, JustWatch is the most reliable service I’ve tested when it comes to selecting a show on your TV and having it launch in the appropriate streaming service. This deep-linking functionality worked without issue across Fire TV, Android TV/Google TV, and Apple TV.
JustWatch’s mobile app is another matter. While it claims to offer a “Play on TV” function, attempting to use it caused repeated crashing on my iPhone 13 Pro Max. And for mobile viewing, JustWatch won’t link to other streaming apps on an iPhone unless Safari is set as your default web browser.
Available on: Web, iOS, Android, Android TV/Google TV, Fire TV, Apple TV, Samsung TVs, LG TVs, Xbox.
Plex: A flawed one-stop-shop
Jared Newman / Foundry
While Plex is better known for its media server features and free content catalog, it also entered the universal guide fray earlier this year. Through the app’s “Discover” section, you can find new movies and shows to watch and add them to a watchlist, which also has its own dedicated tab on the Plex home screen.
Plex’s relative inexperience in this arena shows. The app makes no attempt to recommend content based on your viewing habits, and it doesn’t have any way to browse by genre. You also can’t view IMDb ratings or the source of a particular program without clicking through to its info page.
Linking from Plex to other apps is also inconsistent across platforms. It doesn’t work at all on Fire TV (even though it did at launch), and I had trouble linking out from Peacock and Paramount+ on a Chromecast with Google TV. Plex’s Apple TV app fared better overall, but linking to Paramount+ content still didn’t work.
The upside is that Plex’s guide also works with any content on your media server, so if you’re using Plex’s over-the-air DVR features or pulling in videos from other sources, that content will appear in your watchlist alongside everything else.
Available on: Web, iOS, Android, Android TV/Google TV, Apple TV. (Plex is also available on other platforms, but without deep linking capabilities.)
Reelgood, JustWatch, and Plex aren’t the only universal guide services, but I focused on them because they all offer ways to browse for content on your TV (and, in some cases, to jump into that content in the corresponding app). If the above options leave you wanting, you can also check out Trakt, TV Time, or Simkl.
Or, you can join in me in hoping that the likes of Roku, Apple, and Amazon improve their own universal guide systems and make these third-party tools unnecessary. It’s bound to happen eventually, right?
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