6 easy ways to have a virtual watch party with your friends and family


Streaming services make it easy to view content virtually with friends and family.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Streaming service Subscriptions make it easy to enjoy entire seasons of a TV series at once, watch new releases on day 1 from the comfort of the couch, and even Save money by cutting the string and give up your cable or satellite service. Amid the social distancing in the pandemic, streaming services even found a way to keep movie nights going with friends.

Movie nights used to bring people together to enjoy a movie, but they also made people feel like they were part of something and that others understood them. It felt like magic. Streaming services are bringing back a little of that magic by letting people virtually watch movies and shows.

Whether you are on the other side of the country or are socially distant all over town, here are six ways to virtually watch videos with the people around you.

SharePlay

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SharePlay works on all Apple devices with iOS 15, iPadOS 15 or MacOS Monterey.

Apple

SharePlay – Introduced in iOS 15 and MacOS Monterey – is a FaceTime feature that allows iPhone, iPad and Mac users to share screens for watch parties with up to 33 people. The feature works with Apple TV, Showtime, Paramount Plus, NBA, TikTok, and Twitch streaming services, and the feature is slated to work with Disney Plus, ESPN, Hulu, and HBO Max soon. However, it doesn’t work with Netflix or YouTube. To work, everyone in the watch party must have iOS 15.1 or higher installed and a subscription to the streaming service that is being watched.

How to use SharePlay:

1. Start a FaceTime call.

2. Tap the icon in the top right corner of your screen that looks like a person standing in front of a screen. This will open a drop-down menu.

3. From the drop-down menu, tap Share my screen.

4th During the FaceTime session, open one of the supported streaming services and start watching.

Everyone in the watch party can click pause, play, fast-forward, or rewind, according to Apple. When people talk during the show, SharePlay will decrease the volume of the video until people get quieter. There’s also a group chat icon in the lower left corner of the screen that people can tap so they can message each other without disturbing the video.

Teleparty

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Teleparty is the new name of Netflix Party.

Teleparty

Teleparty, formerly known as Netflix Party, is a Google Chrome extension that lets you have a watch party for up to 1,000 people, if you know that many. It works for Netflix, Disney Plus, Hulu, HBO, and other streaming services. Note that each viewer must have a subscription to the streaming service being watched in order to attend the watch party and they must also have the Teleparty extension installed.

To download Teleparty and host a watch party:

1. Open the Chrome Web Store in Google Chrome and search for Teleparty.

2. click Teleparty. It should be the top result.

3. click Add to Chrome.

4th click Add extension. The Teleparty Icon, TP, should now be in your Chrome toolbar. If you don’t see the icon on your toolbar, click the puzzle piece icon on the toolbar, then click the pin next to the TP Symbol.

5. Open a video on any of the supported streaming services in Chrome.

6th Press the TP Icon in the toolbar.

7th click Start the party.

8th. A new page will open with the video and a shareable link. Send the link to your friends and family.

9. To join the Watch Party, open the link and click the TP Icon in the toolbar.

Teleparty has a group chat so people can message each other during the show.

Hulu watch party

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With the new Watch Party function from Hulus, up to eight people can view content virtually together.

Hulu

Hulu watch party is built into Hulu so you don’t have to download or update anything. You can only share with up to eight subscribers from Hulu (no ads) or Hulu Plus Live TV (no ads). However, the service does not work for Hulus’s live TV offerings, and not every title is compatible with Watch Party. Hulu Watch Party can only be used on PCs or Macs that have the latest version of Google Chrome, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, or Safari.

To host a watch party with Hulu Watch Party:

1. Open Hulu and sign in to your account.

2. Go to details Side of a movie or show.

3. Click the icon that looks like three people are standing together.

4th click Start the party. For a specific TV episode, click on the three dots next to the title of a program. click Start the party in the drop-down menu.

5. A new page will open with a shareable link to the watch party that you can send to your friends and family.

6th When everyone opens the link, click Start party.

Hulu Watch Party also has group chat so people can message each other during the show.

Watch Prime Video Party

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Prime Video Watch Party allows users to host virtual watch parties for content on Amazon Prime Video.

Amazons Watch Prime Video Party is similar to Hulu Watch Party in that it is built into Amazon Prime Video and only works on the service’s films and shows. However, Prime Video Watch Party allows up to 100 Amazon Prime members to watch a video at the same time. Prime Video Watch Party is available on Android mobile devices and tablets, Fire tablets, Fire TV devices, and Google Chrome. They cannot be accessed on iPhones, iPads, Smart TVs, game consoles or in Internet Explorer or Safari.

To set up a watch party with Prime Video Watch Party:

1. Sign in to your Amazon Prime account.

2. Select the title you want to see.

3. Click the icon that looks like a Horn with confetti next to the play button.

4th Put in your name

5. The video opens with a shareable link. Send the link to your friends and family.

6th Open the link to join the watch party.

Prime Video Watch Party also has group chat so you can keep in touch with everyone while you watch.

GroupWatch for Disney Plus

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GroupWatch is Disney Plus’ own virtual watch party feature.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Disney Plus has a built-in watch party feature called Group clock. The feature only works for Disney Plus content, and everyone in the watch party must be a Disney Plus subscriber. For films launched under Premier Access, such as Black widow and Jungle cruise, everyone in the group has to unlock the video themselves, or you can wait for the standard version of these movies. According to Disney, only seven people can watch at a time, and child accounts cannot use GroupWatch. You can use GroupWatch on a desktop or Mac, or through the Disney Plus app on iOS and Android devices.

To set up a watch group using GroupWatch:

1. Sign in to Disney Plus.

2. Select the title you want to see.

3. Click the icon next to Play that looks like three people are standing together. This will open a page with your user icon and a plus Signature.

4th Press the plus sign and a shareable link will be generated.

5. Send the shareable link to your friends and family.

6th When everyone is in the party, everyone can click game.

GroupWatch does not have a group chat function, but members can use emojis to react to what is happening on the screen. Each member can also pause, play, rewind, or fast forward the content.

Share screen

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Zoom is a free screen sharing service that allows you to host virtual watch parties.

Sarah Tew / CNET

If everyone in your group of friends has a different streaming service, or if someone has a DVD or Blu-ray player plugged into their computer, you can still have a watch party. Just use Zooming, Google Meet or another free video chat service. The biggest downside is that many free video chat services have a screen sharing time limit, so this option may be best for half-hour television episodes.

To share the screen using Zoom or Google Meet:

1. Video chat with your friends using Zoom or Google Meet.

2. In Zoom, share your screen by clicking Share screen Button in the lower toolbar. In Google Meet, share your screen by selecting your screen, tab, or window and clicking share.

3. Choose a streaming service and start watching, but be aware of the time limit.

For more information on streaming services, see best live tv streaming services, or check out the The best Black Friday TV deals.


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