By Tracey Dowdy
I have to say few things make me happier than watching major corporations battle for my attention and my patronage. Netflix stepped up in the early days of quarantine with Netflix Party, an extension that allowed users to synchronize video playback and added a group chat to Netflix movies and TV shows.
Never one to slack off, Amazon Prime has stepped up with its own Video Watch Party that allows members to watch heaps of movies and shows from Amazon’s catalog and simultaneously chat with up to one hundred friends with no plugin or download required. It’s available on most desktop browsers, with the notable, but the not surprising exception of Apple’s Safari. At this juncture, Smart TVs, game consoles, mobile phones, and tablets aren’t supported.
With movie theatres in most states still closed, the virtual watch parties that have kept us connected to friends and family and entertain us during the quarantine seem to be the new norm for the foreseeable future.
Setting up a watch party is simple, though it does require a Prime Video account. ($9 a month for a standalone subscription or access through your $119 annual Prime membership. You have to be in the US to use the service).
If someone without a membership wants to join you, you have two options. One, you can share your account with one other person for two simultaneous streams or take advantage of a 30 Day free trial. The trick is to remember to cancel the subscription before the trial ends to avoid being charged for the next month.
To start the party, all participants need to log into their account on their desktop browser.
Then, choose the video you want to watch. You can choose from Amazon Prime’s full catalog including their original series, blockbuster movies, and a fair number of not so blockbuster films notable for their cringe-worthiness like Circus Island and Hawkeye, aka Karate Cops.
Once you’ve made your selection, tap the Watch Party icon under the title. A box will pop up that says, “Let’s Start a Watch Party.” Enter the username you want to use while chatting.
When you choose “Create Watch Party,” a pop-up box will appear that says “Invite Friends” and a personalized link to share with your guests.
Only the host can play, pause, or seek for the group, unlike Netflix Party’s extension that allows anyone in the group to control the screen.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.