Study: Watch Parties gain foothold during pandemic

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A study by The Diffusion Group finds one-in-seven adult SVoD users co-watched a TV show or movie with friends or family via an online watch party during the pandemic.

“The pandemic not only drove home media consumption, but accelerated the use of connected TVs and video-based chat,” advises Lauren Kozak, Senior Analyst and report author. “Not surprisingly, the two trends coalesced to create a new hybrid, the online watch party. In place of enjoying a movie with a friend or family member at a local theatre, or sharing a TV show with guests at home, 25 million adults watched synched on-demand video with others outside their home via internet-connected screens.”

Prior to 2018, co-watching was relegated to DIY hacks and illegal streams, almost exclusively the domain of bleeding-edge tech adopters (aka, ‘Innovators’). In 2018, dedicated co-watching services Teleparty (formerly ‘Netflix Watch Party’) and Scener launched. As of early 2020, these services were still largely relegated to technophiles.

Beginning in March 2020, the fate of co-watching dramatically improved, with stay-at-home directives prompting a rush among major tech-media firms to add co-watching to their feature sets. Instagram moved first in March, and was soon followed by a flood of major streamers (Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, and Sling TV among them). This influx of new tools accelerated awareness of, and experimentation with, co-watching.

Six-in-ten adult SVoD viewers have heard of co-watching, with three in ten acquainted with or using the feature. “That’s a big improvement in just 12 months,” notes Kozak. “And this pace of diffusion is likely to continue post-pandemic: 54 per cent of those who have never co-watched an online movie or TV show are open to doing so.”

Other findings from The Rise of Social Viewing & Watch Parties report:

  • Among co-watchers, more than half have used the Teleparty, while one-third engaged the SVoD features.
  • The greatest potential for watch parties lies in co-watching live sports, though only a handful of apps currently support it.
  • 18-24s are by far the age cohort most likely to have engaged in co-watching.
  • The vast majority of would-be co-watchers would prefer to do so on the home TV, as opposed to computers or mobile devices (where most all co-watching now takes place).

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