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.
The latest entry to the party, GroupWatch allows up to seven subscribers to watch movies and shows in sync. Each user has the power to pause, play, rewind, or fast forward for everyone—so make sure you like your co-watchers enough to share control over the remote. And unlike some other entries in this list, GroupWatch is available within the Disney+ app. Just search for the movie or show you want to watch, tap the GroupWatch icon on the Details page, and invite your friends to join.
Facebook Watch Together
Facebook recently announced that Lionsgate, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Warner Bros. have signed on to bring content to its Messenger Watch Together feature, which allows people to co-view videos, movies, and shows while on a Messenger video call (or Messenger Room). This includes features like Fruitvale Station, Hairspray, Reservoir Dogs, and—just in time for Halloween—The Blair Witch Project. Learn more about how Messenger Watch Together works here.
Prime Video Watch Party
Earlier this year, Amazon Prime Video 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. Hulu Watch Party allows viewers to virtually watch 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 FAQs 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 working to improve the experience for movie fans. More info 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.
Originally published July 13, 2020