Amazon has launched a US public beta for a new social watching feature called Watch Party, which enables as many as 100 people to watch programs together in a social experience.
Unlike watch parties using Zoom or Skype, where the host is sharing video content to a videoconference (and if it’s premium video, it’s a piracy use-case), a Amazon Prime subscription is a pre-requisite for Watch Party.
What others are doing
A similar solution comes from Scener, a Seattle-based developer that was spun out of Real Networks. Scener offers a Chrome plugin that hosts legitimate use of premium OTT services for up to 20 people at a time, also with synchronized text and video chat. While Scener is not Amazon Prime-specific – it works with Netflix and others – it does require Google’s Chrome browser.
Another entry is Hulu’s recently introduced eight-at-a-time Watch Party feature.
Why it matters
Subscriber-only social viewing hasn’t yet been tried by pay TV operators who are focused on (or more accurately stated, distracted by the need to maintain) customer retention. I would venture that pay TV providers should embrace ways to encourage legal social watching for exactly that reason.
Twitch, Caffeine and the esports phenomenon show us that consumers do enjoy the social video experience.
While Twitch and Caffeine complement a game-centric experience with limited entertainment programming from their respective owners, Amazon Prime Watch Party, Scener and Hulu are purely programming-centric.