Commentary

Co-viewing's Long Journey Since The Days Of 'When Harry Met Sally'

Remember that scene in When Harry met Sally when Harry and Sally are watching Casablanca from bed in their respective apartments? They were co-viewing and on the phone and discussing the scene. Co-viewing movies has come a long way since then! 

Fast-forward to the present day. I’ve recently started binge-watching House of Cards on Netflix to catch up with the rest of the world. Like many show junkies, I’ve co-opted friends into catching up. Many times we coordinate our viewing and discuss the episode. That process is a bit of a pain. That is, until I discovered Showgoers.

Trying to watch a show in tandem with someone not in the same location can be a painful experience. Catching up, synching, pausing is difficult to coordinate. And as on-the-go watching has grown, tools to bring remote friends together haven’t kept pace with how many people are now co-viewing shows. Showgoers created a lightweight Chrome extension that solves the synching for Netflix viewing.

The Showgoers extension is easy to install and I was up and running in a few minutes. The UX is intuitive and easy to navigate. Clicking on the 3D glasses icon creates a unique link you can send to friends that you want to co-view with, starting the sync is then just one click. You can also easily share the link via your social networks. Anyone with the link can join the synced play at anytime. Everyone in the synced viewing can control the playback (e.g., pause, rewind, fast-forward), which everyone viewing will see. Before this type of synced co-viewing, discussing what you’re watching was cumbersome and distracting since it was typically done via text or live chat in other browser windows. Showgoers enables chat within the viewing environment. Although still a bit rudimentary, it’s still a big improvement over other means of communicating. You can watch a demo here.

Showgoers also recently rolled out a new feature allowing celebrities to host larger parties and narrate alongside the video content. I can see the appeal to both groups – celebrities having direct, personal engagement with their biggest fans, and consumers feeling like they’re VIPs behind the velvet rope. 

Back in August 2014, Amazon paid $970 million for Twitch, which at the time a lot of people didn’t understand, since co-viewing gaming was widely an unknown phenomenon. In fact, I was somewhat skeptical but the more I read and talked with gamers and tweens and teens, I realized the smart move Amazon had made. Showgoers enables an older audience to do similar co-viewing. And as a younger audience matures, having had co-viewing for gaming made simple, à la Twitch, movies/shows certainly seem to be the logical progression. 

Remember TBS’ Dinner and Movie? That Friday night appointment-based movie paired with commentary and a dinner recipe-themed show ran for 16 years. But as time-shifted TV watching grew, that show’s audience dwindled. Platforms like Showgoers and Twitch present new ways for marketers to surround content that people are passionate about with relevant messaging. This co-viewing space has a lot of runway and it’s certainly a space ripe for brands to test, learn and iterate as the space matures. As I’ve written about before, cord-cutting is increasing and there is a lot of room for innovation in the way we all watch content on the big screen. I’m looking forward to watching this space and finding ways to bring brands into the fold in a meaningful way.

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