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Amazon Launches ‘Watch Party’ Feature for Group Streaming

Amazon’s Prime Video has jumped into the “Watch Party” pool — a streaming trend that has gained momentum during the coronavirus crisis.

The ecommerce company’s Prime Video service has started to gradually roll out Watch Party, its version of a native social-viewing experience, the company said Monday. Available for users on desktop PCs, Prime Video’s browser-based Watch Party lets up to 100 people watch a TV show or movie together in one virtual room.

Using the feature, Prime members can host and participate in a Watch Party, with synchronized playback (which the host controls) and a chat sidebar to the right of the main video window.

For now, the feature is available only in the United States. Also, it’s important to note, each participant must have a Prime membership (and must be based in the U.S.); otherwise, it’s available for no additional charge.

The idea of online “watch parties” has been around for a few years, but with social distancing it has gained more currency. And of course, subscription-video services are eager to promote anything that could help them acquire (or retain) customers.

Last month, startup Scener launched a co-viewing option for HBO in addition to its Netflix option, and there’s also a browser plug-in called Netflix Party (unaffiliated with Netflix). Hulu also rolled out a watch-party feature last month, for up to eight viewers.

Amazon started testing out the concept in April with Twitch, its game-focused streaming platform: Big Twitch creators have had the ability to pick from some of the Prime Video catalog to provide live play-by-play for an episode or movie playing on the main screen. (Both the streamers and viewers need to have Prime accounts.)

With Prime Video Watch Party, customers can select from all VOD titles included as part of the Prime membership. However, transactional VOD titles (to rent or own) that are purchased from Amazon are not included. When you set up a Watch Party in Prime Video, you receive a dedicated link to share with friends and family.

As you would expect, the co-viewing feature is available for all Amazon originals, including Fleabag, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, Hanna, Mindy Kaling’s Late Night, Donald Glover’s Guava Island, Troop Zero, The Big Sick, The Boys, Homecoming and My Spy.

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