The feature, available for Prime members in the U.S. at no cost, started to slowly roll out Monday on laptops only. Apple’s Safari browser will not support the the native social viewing tool. It is unclear when — or if — it will arrive on other platforms beyond laptops, like gaming consoles, connected-TV devices or smart TVs.
Hulu said in May it is testing a feature it also calls Watch Party on its ad-free tier. Many Netflix users have spent time in recent months using the “Netflix Party” extension for Chrome web browsers. A Seattle-based startup called Scener has also announced ventures with HBO, Netflix and other programmers to enable social viewing. Kast is a more recent successor to predecessors like Rabbit, which folded in 2019. All have sought to build out the community dimensions of streaming apps, a component that several newer entrants, notably HBO Max, are working to incorporate.
The shutdowns of businesses, schools, movie theaters and public spaces due to COVID-19 earlier this year added to the appeal of social viewing, given the lack of options. Shared feedback, though not necessarily simultaneous viewing, is also built into video offerings by social media firms like Snap and Facebook.
Amazon said “thousands of titles” from the Prime catalog, including originals, will be eligible for Watch Party. Subscribers will be able to host or participate in communal viewing. Watch Party offers synchronized playback controlled by the host (keeping anyone from skipping ahead). A chat feature shows running commentary in a column to the right of the video frame.
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