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Facebook wants more people watching videos together at the same time

So it’s testing a new feature called “Watch Party” to try and make that happen.

Three teenage girls look at their phones while sitting beside a fountain in London. Richard Baker / Getty Images

When Facebook changed its News Feed algorithm last week, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the hope was that the change would lead to more interaction among Facebook users, not just passive consumption.

Now Facebook is making another change with the same goal: It’s testing a new product called “Watch Party” that will let groups of Facebook users watch the same video at the same time, even if the video isn’t being broadcast live.

Facebook says that live videos generate six times as many “interactions” from users as non-live videos, and a big part of the reason is that people are watching them together.

“With everyone watching, commenting and reacting to the same moments together, it creates a shared viewing experience for video that helps build the kind of community and engagement we’ve seen with Live [video],” Facebook’s Fidji Simo, the product executive in charge of the company’s video efforts, wrote in a post shared with Recode. (It’s now live.)


The idea of group viewing for videos is not new, and it has never really taken off. Tumblr has tried it, and so has former Facebook executive Sean Parker, with an app called Airtime. Then there have been other group video apps, like Houseparty, that focus more on group video chats.

That doesn’t mean it won’t work for Facebook, of course. Facebook Groups is a big feature — more than one billion people on Facebook actively participate in a group. And when Facebook sets its mind to something, it usually pushes hard into making it work. Getting people to interact more with one another inside the app is clearly the main goal right now.

The new Watch Party feature will live inside “a handful of Groups,” and is being billed as a test, according to Simo.

Update: The test is really small -- fewer than a dozen groups, according to a company spokesperson. To get to the Watch Party, members of a group will click to enter a separate area of the app where the video will be playing — kind of like a viewing room. As it stands now, all comments and interactions shared in that room during the watch party will disappear after the video is over and everyone leaves, though that could obviously change as the test and product expands.

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