Facebook is testing a feature that allows its users to watch videos together, and chat about it while doing so, the company announced Wednesday. Watch Party, as the new feature is being called, allows synchronized viewing of any video, but is limited to Facebook groups.
“In a Watch Party, members of a Group can watch videos together in the same space at the same time — videos are chosen by the Group admins and moderators, and can be any public videos on Facebook (live or recorded),” explained Facebook VP of product Fidji Simo in an announcement post.
Simo said that Facebook is “starting with groups” to test the new feature, which leaves the door open for an integration into other parts of the service, perhaps even the Watch page itself. “While this is just a small test at the moment, we’ll be learning, and hope to expand Watch Party in the future,” she said.
Watch Party is an interesting feature for Facebook in part because it combines two key parts of the company’s video strategy: The immediacy of live viewing and the shelf life of a robust video catalog. Facebook put an early emphasis on live streaming to differentiate itself from YouTube, but many publishers found it hard to make the economics of live streaming work for them.
More recently, Facebook has been focused on building out a catalog of videos, and a destination discover them, with its Watch page. Just this week, Facebook announced that it had acquired three new shows for Watch.
Facebook’s Ricky Van Veen used his appearance at the NATPE conference in Miami to explain that the company wasn’t looking to compete with expensive dramas. “What’s going to differentiate us is that show that uses the social fabric of Facebook,” he said.
This isn’t the first attempt at social co-viewing. Failed Los Angeles-based video startup Chill tried to to the same a few years back with clips from across the web, and Vevo has ben experimenting with watch parties for music videos as well.