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How to Host a Virtual Watch Party

After you send them the link, your friends will be able to join, provided they have also installed the browser extension and are logged into Netflix. During the playback, there will be a gray Netflix Party box for text chatting. You change your icon and username by clicking the circle at the top by the copy link button.

Unfortunately, at this point you can’t voice or video chat during playback, which could be just fine if your friend group is more into texting anyway.

Scener

WIRED: Video chat. Slick interface. Good video quality.

TIRED: Requires a separate Scener account.

Another third party option, Scener provides remote watching via Netflix, Disney+, Vimeo, and HBO Go and/or Now. It’s also just about the slickest option here, with video chat, an adjustable chat window, and the ability to easily toggle between streaming services. You also get the option for private screenings for up to 10 people, or a public session with an unlimited audience size (though still only 10 people can turn on their cameras).

First, you’ll need to install the Scener browser extension. (It’s only available on Chrome for now.) Like with Netflix Party, go to the puzzle piece Extensions icon in the top right corner of Chrome and pin the Scener icon. If you don’t see it right away, just restart your browser.

To start Scener, just click the extension logo and a separate window will pop up. From there, press “Create a theater” and choose between a private or public screening. Then select your subscription service of choice (you’ll have to log in if you haven’t already) and it should pop right up. In the chat window to the right, you’ll see the option to enable video chat and an invite link to send to your friends. A handy “pass the remote” feature lets you toggle who gets to pick what to watch next and who has control during playback.

Each person using Scener has to have a valid account with any of the available streaming services. They all have to make a separate Scener account as well.

Hulu Watch Party

WIRED: No installation needed. Good video quality. Text chat.

TIRED: No video or voice chat. Everyone involved needs access to a paid Hulu account. No live TV.

Unlike the first three options, Hulu Watch Party is supported directly in the Hulu service itself. To use it, you’ll need to be on a computer.

First, go to Hulu on your browser. (It supports Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Microsoft Edge.) Go into the show or movie you want to watch. There’s an icon right next to the play button that looks like three people with a play arrow on the top. That’s the Watch Party button. Click it, then click “Start the party.” That will take you to a screen with a link for your viewing session. Copy that, send it to your friends, then click “Start party” once everyone has joined.

Like with Netflix Party, every participant needs to have access to a paid Hulu subscription. If you share a family plan, multiple users on the same account can join a Watch Party together. Also, not every single thing on Hulu is available for Watch Party. You can’t stream Live TV or “premium add-on content,” for example.

Amazon Prime Video Watch Party

WIRED: No installation required. Good video quality.

TIRED: Only Amazon content is available, so no rented or purchased movies. Everyone watching needs an Amazon Prime account.

The newest option on this list, Amazon Watch Party works almost exactly like Hulu’s version of the feature. It’s available on desktop/laptop computers (no mobile option yet). It’s also dead simple to use. Just select a compatible video, then click the “Watch party” option. That will prompt you to enter your name and the video will start. Copy the share link and send it to your friends for them to join.

The big caveat here is that right now, only content in Amazon’s Prime Video library are available to stream. This includes its original shows like Fleabag, Upload, and The Boys, as well as some licensed movies. Unfortunately, any movies you’ve bought or rented can’t be streamed through Watch Party.

A full list of Prime Video titles is here.


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