The Coronavirus pandemic has impacted the entertainment sector in a big way. As we get accommodated to this new normal, the situation has also paved the way for more options to connect and collaborate without having to leave our homes.
Take movies for example; only limited theatres are open these days and new movies that were planned for theatrical release, are now being released on OTT streaming platforms, like Netflix, Prime Video, Disney+, etc. And with that, the meaning of “movie night” has changed too.
Instead of physically going to the movies with friends and family, a concept called “watch party” has emerged as a way to watch content together and interact with one another (via chat) online from the comfort of their homes.
What is a Watch Party?
A watch party is a new way to stream online content (movies, TV shows, games, etc.) along with friends, relatives, and loved ones from physically different locations. A watch party app usually sets up a virtual chat room with the desired video stream embedded on the same page.
The participants can join the watch party on their own devices and watch the desired video together. Playback is synced across all the devices, and participants can control playback (play, pause, scrub forward or back, etc.) as required. Of course, the participants can even discuss with each other, use emojis, GIFs, and other emotes to share their ideas, thoughts, and expressions.
Watch Party apps are generally compatible with desktops and laptops more than iOS or Android devices. But, if your friends don’t want to watch on a computer, you might want to pick an app that is available across all the preferred platforms.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the top watch party apps you can use to stream movies and TV shows on your personal devices (computers, smartphones, tablets, etc.) along with friends.
Note: Watch Party apps only facilitate the platform for watching online content together. Each of the participants should individually have access to an active subscription for the particular OTT service from which the video content is being hosted.
Top Watch Party apps for Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, YouTube, and more
Below are some of the top watch party apps to stream movies and TV shows together with friends:
Teleparty (Formerly Netflix Party)
Supported Services: Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu, and HBO
Available Platforms: Chrome Web Store
Teleparty is a free Chrome extension that allows you to stream online videos, movies, and TV shows together with friends and family, from a host of OTT services, including Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu, and HBO. It provides a simple UI, which includes the video being watched, and a small chat sidebar, where participants can interact with each other.
To start a Teleparty after installing the extension, open any video from Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, or HBO (Teleparty supports these four services at the time of this writing), click on the extension and follow the on-screen instructions.
Teleparty will generate a URL, which you can share with others to let them join your party. You as the party host can decide whether to allow the participants to control playback or to keep the controls to yourself. As the participants join using your shared link, you’ll start seeing them in Teleparty. A participant can join an existing party by simply clicking on the URL shared to them by the host.
Once all the participants have joined, the host or any of the participants (provided they have the permission) can start playing the video, and its playback will be synced across all the participants’ devices. Teleparty recommends hosting up to 50 friends in a single chat room, though more might be supported depending on the load on Teleparty servers.
That’s it! Now you can watch the stream along with the other participants while chatting with them.
If you’re primarily a smartphone user, you might not prefer a watch party solution that is ideal for desktops or laptops, but not so for mobile devices. Instead, Rave is a watch party app that serves a similar purpose but is targeted towards mobile users. It’s an Android, iOS app that allows multiple users to watch video content from a variety of services together while facilitating mutual interactions via chat.
Rave supports videos from Netflix, YouTube, Vimeo, Reddit, etc., and also allows users to upload their own videos to Dropbox or Google Drive to watch them together. Like Teleparty, Rave syncs video playback across connected devices without lag and supports an unlimited number of devices to watch and interact together.
Rave supports rich interactions to engage with friends while watching videos together. In addition to texting, you can have audio conversations via VOIP, or vote for the next item to watch together.
In addition to watching videos together, Rave also supports playing the same song on multiple devices, with its RaveDJ feature. Just start playing an audio or video clip, and share the Rave link to others for them to join in.
Rave is a free app that you can download from the App Store or Google Play Store.
Supported Services: Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu, Prime Video, HBO Max, YouTube, Funimation, Vimeo, Alamo, Shudder, etc.
Available Platforms: Chrome Web Store
Scener is similar to Teleparty but has better support for streaming services, including YouTube, Vimeo, Prime Video, Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, and more. Scener requires the users to open a free online account, but that also means you can add friends to your contact list, to be able to invite them to future watch parties quickly.
In addition to watching online content together and setting up a virtual chat room, it even lets you turn on the camera and microphone, so you can be on a video call while watching the movie or TV show. By default, the host of the watch party has control over media playback (play, pause, forward, or back), but they can “pass the remote” to any other participant from the host control dashboard, available on the chat window.
Scener supports two different party modes. In Private Party mode, you can add up to 10 friends on an invite-only basis. Only the people who are invited will be able to view the stream. All the invited members can share their webcam/camera feed for video chat. In Public Party mode, you can host up to a million guests to join a watch party. Only the people you designate as your co-hosts will be able to control playback or share their camera feed. You can also schedule a watch party to start at a later date and time.
Even though Teleparty is more popular as a watch party app, Scener proves to be better in its look & feel, user controls, and OTT services support.
Other apps to watch videos together on YouTube, Netflix, Disney Plus, etc.
Watch2gether is a web app that allows you to watch videos from several of the popular streaming services, including YouTube, Vimeo, Twitch, DailyMotion. Facebook, Soundcloud, and more. It allows you to create a W2g room and start a watch party instantly from the website home page, though you can utilize additional features (such as W2gSync, which allows you to watch videos in sync from any website) by installing the free Chrome extension.
Syncplay is slightly different from all the other apps featured on this list. It’s a free and open-source app available for Windows, macOS, and Linux that allows multiple users to watch movies and other videos together in sync over the Internet, It works with native media player apps like VLC or Media Player Classic. Users need to have their own local copy of the media file to watch it together. The Syncplay client syncs playback timestamps across the connected media player apps.
To know more about what Syncplay is and how it works, refer to the detailed explanation available on the official website.
And, of course, we’re also starting to see OTT streaming services slowly launching their own official versions of the “view party” feature in select regions. We’ve known about such features being offered or tested by Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and Disney Plus.
While we wait for our lives to go back to normal, apps like these can keep us engaged and connected together, regardless of the physical distances and borders. If you found this article useful, help your friends to discover these apps by sharing the article. And if you know of any other app that deserves a place here, let us know in the comments below.