Here’s a new way to virtually watch HBO shows with up to 20 of your friends, while many Americans are still stuck at home under lockdown.
Seattle-based startup Scener has launched support for HBO that enables co-watching features for HBO Now and HBO Go viewers via a Google Chrome browser extension. The WarnerMedia-owned premium programmer began working with Scener on the feature earlier this spring.
HBO subscribers can create their own private theaters on Windows, Mac, or Chromebook by downloading Scener’s free extension from the Chrome Web Store. Viewers can host watch parties with friends, enabling up to 20 people to watch synchronized streaming programming from HBO over video chat. Scener plans to soon launch support for bigger co-watching parties.
Scener, which first launched in 2018, currently also supports Netflix co-viewing sessions.
“COVID-19 has highlighted the need to connect virtually with loved ones, and Scener’s partnership with HBO provides a fantastic way to interact,” said Joe Braidwood, co-founder and COO of Scener. “By combining the worlds of live video chat and streaming entertainment, Scener makes it easy for viewers to enjoy one of our most beloved pastimes — watching TV together — from a safe distance.”
As for whether Scener’s system will support HBO Max, set to launch May 27, Briadwood said he was unable to comment.
Terms of HBO’s deal with Scener are not being disclosed, but there’s likely a revenue-sharing agreement in place. “Our revenue model is to partner with providers of SVOD and AVOD video entertainment to drive engagement around their content,” said Braidwood.
In addition, Scener is looking at ways large co-watching events could provide other opportunities. “The best example here is how Twitch has built an economy with Bits around tipping and shout-outs,” Braidwood said.
The Scener Virtual Movie Theater browser extension synchronizes playback for all viewers (who must each have an HBO subscription). The interface features a sidebar to let participants engage in video, audio, and text chat.
Scener’s Google Chrome extension supports HBO Now and HBO Go for Macs, Windows PC, and Chromebook. A webcam is required for video chat, and headphones are recommended. Scener was incubated by media-streaming company RealNetworks, which is the primary investor.