COVID-19 has forced the world into lockdown, prompting content distributors to come up with new ways to reach their homebound audiences. One of the latest innovations to hit the media landscape is the social watch party app.
From the Netflix Party extension to Scener (now partnered with HBO), content distributors of all types are one-upping each other by adding social-watching features to their services. Scroll down to see some of the different tools you can use to watch movies with your friends from home.
Amazon Prime Watch Party
Amazon Prime Video has started rolling out its new Watch Party feature, which is included at no extra cost with your Prime membership. The tool allows participants to watch new Amazon movies together with the playback synchronized to the host’s account. It's currently offered via Prime Video on desktop and is supported across thousands of titles in the Prime Video SVOD (subscription video on demand) catalog. However, movies available only for rent or purchase are not available within Watch Party at this time, according to Amazon. Learn more about Watch Party from Prime Video.
Hulu Watch Party
In May, Hulu joined the watch party app ... party ... and released Hulu Watch Party. It allows viewers to virtually watch Hulu together while in separate locations and chat with one another within the Hulu app. It is being offered only to the company's “No Ads” subscribers for the time being, but will "work with thousands of movies and shows in Hulu’s on-demand streaming library," according to the company. One major advantage of Hulu Watch Party is that it doesn’t require a browser plug-in or extension of any kind. Check out the FAQ's page at Hulu Watch Party.
Netflix Party synchronizes video playback and adds group chat to your favorite Netflix shows. The caveat is that Netflix Party is available only on Chrome browsers on desktop or laptop computers. In other words, to enjoy Netflix Party from your TV you'll likely need Google Chromecast (or you'll need to undergo the always daunting challenge of connecting an HDMI cord from your computer to your TV). Find out how you can and your friends can watch Netflix together via Netflix Party.
Plex brings together "all the media that matters to you." The company's new Watch Together feature is still in beta, but will allow users to invite friends on Plex to watch something together; if a user is not on Plex, you can invite them to join. One minor downside of this watch party app is that the feature doesn't currently include a built-in chat function, but the upside is that there's no cap on the number of users who can join a Watch Together session and that, at least for now, it’s free. See all the details at Plex Watch Together.
Twitch Watch Parties
Before launching its own platform-wide watch party feature, Amazon Prime was already allowing Twitch communities to come together and watch/react to/discuss movies and TV shows via their Amazon Prime or Prime Video membership. Twitch Watch Parties was launched in October 2019, and the company has been "hard at work" on improving the experience for movie fans. More info: is at Twitch Watch Parties.
Scener is a Chrome browser extension that lets you sync Netflix and other streaming services with those of your friends so you can video chat together. Recently, the platform also partnered with WarnerMedia to offer this “virtual theater” experience (that supports up to 20 people at a time) to HBO NOW and HBO Go subscribers. According to TechCrunch, the company says it will also roll out a “1-to-many” version of its virtual theater experience that will allow people to host even more synchronous viewers. Learn more about Scener.