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September 17, 2020
Let’s face it: 2020 has been weird. Despite all the lockdowns and physical distancing, there’s still nothing quite like spending quality time with friends, family, and loved ones watching a great movie together…just now together might mean separately on your phones or computers. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll eat delicious snacks in the comfort of your own home while still enjoying the socializing and shared ‘big-screen’ experience.
Whether it’s work or life taking them far away, or a global pandemic closing movie theatres and limiting social gatherings, sometimes we can’t all get together. How can you share the fun of watching movies and bingeing TV close to the people we like watching movies with?
Fortunately, there are a number of ways available today that make it possible to stream movies and other digital content with others, no matter where they are. We’ll cover some of the most popular tool, as well as few considerations when trying to organize a watch party. Most of these are available for both phones and computers so everybody can join in!
As the world’s most popular movie and TV streaming platform, it makes sense that people would want to watch (or binge) on Netflix together. While Netflix itself doesn’t provide any tools or officially support streaming together, there is Netflix Party. Netflix Party is a Chrome extension, so it should work on any phone or computer that has the Chrome browser installed. How does it work? Each person uses their own Netflix account and Netflix Party handles the task of synchronizing video playback so everyone involved is always at the same point in the show or movie. It also includes a group chat, so you can (quietly) chat while viewing.
If you’re looking for an alternative to Netflix Party with similar functions, there’s also Kast, Scener, Metastream , and TwoSeven. Each is a little different in terms of how they work, but at the time of writing, all are reliable ways to watch Netflix (and other streaming services) together over long distances.
The popular voice chat platform, Discord
The remote video meeting platform Zoom has spiked in popularity as a work-from-home meeting tool, particularly in North America. While not a dedicated tool for streaming together, Zoom is flexible enough to stream content for everyone on the “call” together. Simply organize a call then share your screen with participants so you can watch together – just make sure you click the “Share computer sound” option so everyone on the call can hear. Voice and text chat are both available simultaneously for discussing the action on the screen. However, the major limitation to streaming content together on Zoom is that, unless you’re on a paid plan with Zoom, calls are restricted to a 40-minute time limit.
Streaming together can recreate the shared experience and some of the social aspects of going to the movies or watching a show or sporting event in person even if you can’t physically be together. Just don’t forget the popcorn and no spoilers, please.
Disclaimer: This is not legal advice. If you’re unsure, please consult the copyright laws where you live.
Before you head off to organize your next watch party, we’d like to add a little bit about the legality of streaming content. While it is super easy to stream and share content together, the legal issues that might arise from this are a little more complicated. Most national copyright laws around the world usually contain some clause restricting the “public performance” of copyrighted content (which would include most movies and TV shows). In short, it is illegal in most jurisdictions to broadcast copyrighted material without permission. However, it’s not entirely clear, at the time of writing, if streaming a movie between yourself and a few friends constitutes a public performance, or if it falls into what would be considered reasonable consumer use of the material. Additionally, sharing content may contravene the Terms of Service of your streaming service. Ultimately, you stream and share content at your own risk.
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