Watch Parties flourish during pandemic | Media Analysis | Business | News | Rapid TV News
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That streaming and the uptake of SVOD services surged since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic is widely known but more details of how people have used such services is emerging and now it would appear, says research from The Diffusion Group (TDG), that co-watching films and TV series has become established behaviour.
TDG WatchParty 14 Apr 2021
Prior to 2018, co-watching was more or less the domain of DIY hacks and illegal streams, almost exclusively the domain of bleeding-edge tech adopters, In 2018, the first dedicated co-watching services such as Teleparty (formerly Netflix Watch Party) and Scener launched. As of early 2020, these services were still largely relegated to technophiles. Since March 2020 there has been 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 including Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video and Sling TV. This influx of new tools has, says TDG, accelerated awareness of, and experimentation with, co-watching.

And the result, says The Rise of Social Viewing & Watch Parties report, is that one-in-seven adult SVOD users co-watched an online TV show or film with friends or family during the pandemic. The study was based on a survey of 2,000 US adults that use an SVOD service and fielded in late December 2020 and early January 2021.

Three-fifths of adult SVOD viewers have now heard of co-watching, with three in ten acquainted with or using the feature. This was described by TDG as a big improvement compared with a year ago and the analyst expects the pace of uptake to continue post-pandemic. Moreover, the study found that 54% of those who had never co-watched an online movie or TV show were now open to doing so.

Among existing co-watchers, more than half have used the Teleparty, while a third engaged the SVOD features. In terms of age demographics, 18-24s were 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 device, where most all co-watching now takes place.

TDG believes that the greatest potential for watch parties lies in co-watching live sports, though only a handful of apps currently support it. “The pandemic not only drove home media consumption, but accelerated the use of connected TVs and video-based chat,” said Lauren Kozak, senior analyst and author of The Rise of Social Viewing & Watch Parties report.

“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.”