Co-viewing is gaining popularity, but mostly with younger viewers

Co-viewing features and apps for streaming content seem to be gaining in popularity but adoption is still most widespread among younger viewers.

Some services will already offering co-viewing features before the pandemic but 2020 accelerated the trend and saw more streaming companies jump in with features that combine passive viewing with social functions like video chat. According to new data from Hub Entertainment Research, 23% of viewers said they have watched via a co-viewing app or service this year, up from 20% in 2020.

When that group of respondents is broken down by age, significant gaps appear. Hub said that 41% of viewers age 16-34 said they’ve used a co-viewing app, compared with 23% of those age 35-54 and only 3% of those 55 or older.

“Co-viewing apps and services are becoming increasingly important, no doubt driven in part by recent pandemic experiences,” said David Tice, senior consultant to Hub and co-author of the study, in a statement. “Content distributors and streaming services that help enable this behavior will increase their appeal to young adults overall, and in particular young men. This is an important consideration with the advent of fully or partially ad-supported streaming services and the desirability of these key demos to advertisers.”

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According to the firm’s survey—which was conducted in late May and early June 2021 with 2,519 U.S. consumers—Amazon Watch Party is the most commonly used co-viewing app, with 44% of respondents saying they used it, followed by Discord with 28% and Zoom with 27%.

Throughout 2020, companies including Hulu, Sling TV, Comcast, Amazon, Movies Anywhere and Disney+ all debuted different co-viewing experiences. After earlier its Watch Party feature for Hulu (No Ads) subscribers, the service in December opened the option up to all its on-demand customers.

In November, Comcast launched a new livestreaming app on X1 and Flex called Watchwith that lets viewers interact and includes features like Sneak Peek meter, a polling feature that will enable the audience to collectively unlock video clips. In September, Disney+ introduced GroupWatch, a co-viewing feature that allows for up to seven people to watch together in a synced playback experience. Before that, Sling TV launched a Watch Party feature that works for live and on-demand content in Sling Orange, Sling Blue, Sling Latino and Sling International services, or any Sling TV Extra.