Amazon Prime Video is beginning to roll out a co-viewing feature to Amazon Prime members in the U.S., the company announced today. The "Watch Party" feature, which is included at no extra cost with a Prime membership, allows participants to watch video content together at the same time with the playback synchronized to the host's account.
The host of the co-watching session will be able to start, stop and pause the Watch Party as needed throughout the session, and those changes will also be synced to all participants' devices instantly.
Each session can also support up to 100 participants -- as long as those participants also have a Prime membership (or a Prime Video subscription) and are are watching from within the U.S.
While the video is playing, users can socialize with other participants through a built-in chat feature that supports both text and built-in emojis.
At launch, Watch Party is offered via Prime Video on the desktop and is supported across thousands of titles in the Prime Video SVOD (subscription video on demand) catalog. This includes the third-party content that comes with Prime as well as Amazon Originals like "Fleabag," "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," "Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan," "HANNA," "Mindy Kaling’s Late Night," "Donald Glover’s Guava Island," "Troop Zero," "The Big Sick," "The Boys," "Homecoming," "My Spy" and others.
Titles available only for rent or purchase are not available within Watch Party at this time, Amazon says.
To get started with Watch Party, customers will click on the new Watch Party icon on the movie or show's page on Prime Video desktop website. They're then given a link they can share with friends and family however they want. Recipients who click the link will then join the session and be able to chat with others.
Amazon says the new feature was built as a native experience for Prime Video.
The company is the latest streaming service to roll out built-in support for co-viewing -- something that's become a popular activity during the coronavirus pandemic as people are spending more time at home.
While the U.S. was sheltering in place under coronavirus lockdowns, a browser extension called Netflix Party went viral. Soon, all the streamers wanted in on this action. HBO, for example, partnered with the browser extension maker Scener to offer a "virtual theater" experience for co-watching that supports up to 20 people.
Amazon, however, had already offered a way to co-watch some of its Prime Video titles before today. Its game-streaming site Twitch had introduced Watch Parties this spring across more than 70 Amazon Prime Video titles. The new native experience rolling out now offers a broader selection and has the potential to expand to more markets in the future.
If you don't see Watch Party yet, you will have it soon, as the feature is just now beginning to roll out more broadly.
Amazon wouldn't comment on its future plans for Watch Party. When asked about the roadmap ahead, the company would only say that it introduces features when they're ready for customers.