COVID-19 and the Importance of Shared Viewing Experiences

Jason Flick
Jason Flick CEO and Co-Founder
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With many of us sitting at home, now’s the time for streaming/VOD to take over as the prime method of entertainment, right? Maybe.

Being able to binge a new TV show or knock items off your ever-expanding watchlist has been a popular sport during the quarantine. People are consuming more content now than ever before—but If lockdown has taught us anything, it’s that we’ve taken human interaction for granted.

People want to experience things with friends and family.

Gamers have known this for years but being able to share your what you’re watching with others in real-time creates a stronger, emotional bond. It seems the rest of the world is figuring it out now through some ill-equipped tools like Zoom, FaceTime, Netflix Party, etc. Tech companies and users are hacking together a new future of shared experiences.

Our musician friends are hosting live shows over Twitch or Zoom. Can’t get tickets to a Broadway show? The cast of Jagged Little Pill put an entire performance online. Virtual concerts are bringing a level of interactivity and creativity that can’t be replicated in a physical space. Comedy and Late Night talk show hosts are bypassing traditional broadcast networks and reaching viewers directly over YouTube. Even sports providers like Formula 1 are pouring money into digital alternatives.

It’s a direct-to-consumer (D2C) play centred on co-viewing.

So what does this mean for media companies, MVPDs, and operators?

Media companies need to create shared experiences.

Plex has caught on. So has Hulu. HBOMax is also looking at ways to integrate a social aspect to online viewing.

The next crop of winners are going to have to innovate very quickly with a solution that’s built for co-viewing.

There’s a reason why eSports continues to grow in popularity year-after-year. Viewers can interact with other viewers and the streamer live, either through Twitch, YouTube Gaming, Facebook Live, etc. For those who can’t make it live, they still have the VOD option to catch-up. Viewing habits constantly change. The jump to VOD from cable was for a need for freedom. Now, the jump from VOD to shared experience will close the gap between the two ends of the spectrum. Join if you can, relive if you can’t.

I think the end result looks a lot like something we’re used to: “appointment television”. Where, at a certain time, we all tune into the airing of our favourite show, which ends up being the main topic of discussion for the rest of the week. Except now, in groups of 2-10, we watch a show and for the next week that group is bound by that shared experience that will drive an even closer relationship between them.

Second screen experiences and online watch parties are nothing new. Some people naturally gravitate to twitter or messaging apps to get a sense of community when watching a show/movie online. I’m talking about something organic. A co-viewing paradigm built into the product.

Whether it’s a chat window, video hang out session, reaction buttons, social integration—time will tell. Success in the coming years will come from media providers who can create experiences viewers can share on the platform, in real-time.

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