Disney responds to lockdown loneliness with GroupWatch

Disney Plus will now offer users the ability to share screens with up to seven viewers, giving it a significant advantage over Netflix.

Despite its rocky launch and recent Mulan controversy, Disney Plus continues to enjoy huge subscriber numbers and viewing figures. In April of this year it managed to surpass 50 million paying users which will have likely increased significantly since then, making it a serious competitor to Netflix.

It just introduced a bunch of new features in line with other platforms like Amazon Prime Video, including real-time emoji reactions and group watch capabilities. Up to seven separate accounts can now stream a show together and anyone can pause, rewind, and play at whim.

I can already see how people will abuse the controls and wind up friends to no end – toilet breaks will be particularly chaotic, I imagine.

Disney stated that this new GroupWatch feature will work on any device, meaning you can watch on the go or from your television with friends quickly and easily.

Considering the platform was launched less than a year ago it’s been impressively quick to update and improve. Netflix has yet to install a group function of its own and if you want to share your screen with others you’ll have to use a third party extension, at least for now.

Group interactivity on apps has been in huge demand from consumers this year thanks to lockdown. We’re all looking for ways to virtually stay together since physical gatherings are borderline illegal depending on where you live.

Spotify launched a beta version of a similar feature in June that gives listeners the option to play podcasts or tracks with friends. Video chat apps like House Party and Zoom saw insane growth at the beginning of the year, and Facebook has also pushed group calls and chats with its new ‘messenger room’ options.

This is partly the reason for the huge increase in popularity of gaming streams, which reportedly doubled in size over the summer. There is a clear appetite for communal entertainment experiences this year, and Disney is smart for jumping on board sooner rather than later.

I’d expect to see Netflix finally implement its own version of GroupWatch soon. It’ll have to start adopting trends like these sooner if it wants to stay as the main heavyweight in the video streaming game. Regardless, we’re very likely to see an increased emphasis on group features across the board for the next few years.

Coronavirus isn’t going anywhere soon. We might as well all have fun together, right?

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