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Listen: The ‘Watch Party’ Trend Sweeping the Video World Amid Lockdown

Joe BraidwoodVariety Entertainment & Technology Summit,
David Buchan/Variety/Shutterstock

One of the more interesting media-consumption behaviors to emerge from the pandemic era is “watch parties,” which allow consumers sheltering at home from disparate locations to chat with each other while watching the same program synchronized across all of their screens. This kind of virtual co-viewing puts an entertainment-centric spin on the video-conferencing boom perpetuated in recent by month Zoom, Microsoft Teams and other software.

From Netflix Party to Twitch, there is no shortage of options out there for people interested in watch-party solutions. But as of last month, only one of the many entries in this market, Scener, boasts a partnership with HBO.

It’s an early win that has helped this two-year-old startup become a copyright-friendly option for consumers and content companies alike.

“When you have prominent announcements with incredible brands like this, it raises your profile,” said Joe Braidwood, co-founder and COO at Scener on the latest episode of the “Strictly Business” podcast. “Its a rising tide for all co-viewing experiences right now.”

Listen to the podcast here:

Almost one-fifth of U.S. adults aged 18 and over say that they’ve ever taken part in a watch party, per market research firm Maru/Matchbox provided exclusively to Variety Intelligence Platform. This behavior is greatest among younger Americans, with one-third saying that they’ve ever had a watch party, suggesting the trend is beginning to build steam as another way to stream.

It’s worth noting that close to half of all age groups say they’ve never heard of watch parties before, but that doesn’t necessarily reflect poorly on what was deemed a niche behavior prior to the pandemic. Close to two-thirds of those having a watch party said they’d had one within the last month, suggesting the behavior is beginning to catch on.

Based in Seattle, Scener was incubated by one of the first companies in the online video space, RealNetworks, whose CEO, Rob Glaser, is one of the venture’s primary investors, along with Jason Calacanis. 

While Scener was in the market long before COVID-19 spread, Braidwood understands how usage of co-viewing exploded in recent months because consumers saw his product in a new light during the lockdown.

“People are craving social connectivity with the people they love and  they care about and their finding new and creative  ways to spend time together,” said Braidwood. “Co-viewing is a great way to do that.”

Strictly Business” is Variety‘s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of media and entertainment. A new episode debuts each Wednesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher and SoundCloud.