Watch Parties Are Finally Coming to Disney+ (Here’s How They Work)

Disney+ on iPhone in popcorn Credit: Photo Hall / Shutterstock
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It appears that Disney is in the process of slowly deploying a new watch party feature for its extremely popular subscription service that could soon allow you to watch your favourite shows and movies on Disney+ with up to six of your friends.

Dubbed GroupWatch, the new feature appears to have been rolled out to a limited number of Disney+ subscribers in Canada already, and Disney has confirmed to The Verge that it’s using that as a test market right now.

The company says it hopes to make the new feature more widely available later this fall.

Disney is arguably a bit late to the party here — Hulu rolled out a Watch Party feature back in May, and even the personal media streaming service Plex dropped its own Watch Together feature for users’ own private media libraries.

Amazon Prime also has a similar feature that allows a staggering number of up to 100 people in one viewing session.

However, there’s little doubt that Disney+ is a considerably more popular streaming service, and with not only Disney titles, but also Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, and even The Simpsons, there’s a lot more to share here compared to other streaming services.

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In fact, the feature is arriving just in time for The Mandalorian season 2, which is due to launch on October 30th, and hopefully, Disney will have completed its preliminary trials by then and GroupWatch will be available to a wider audience, allowing you to enjoy Baby Yoda with all of your friends, especially in an era when social distancing may preclude people from getting together in person.

Here’s How GroupWatch Works

Once GroupWatch is available to you, it will appear as a small three-person icon to the right of the normal playback buttons when viewing the title page for a movie or show.

Tapping on the GroupWatch button will take you to a screen where you can invite up to six friends to join your GroupWatch.

When inviting friends from the Disney+ app on your iPhone or iPad, the standard iOS Share Sheet will be presented, allowing you to send a GroupWatch invite link out via whatever method is most convenient, such as Messages, WhatsApp, email, or even just copying the link to your clipboard.

Starting a GroupWatch through a web browser on your Mac or PC will simply give you the link for you to copy and send out manually.

You can technically send out more than six invitations to a GroupWatch, since it’s just a link, but only a maximum of six others can join you at any one time, and it’s pretty much on a first-come-first-served basis.

It doesn’t have to be the same six who initially joined, however, so if one person drops off, another one can join in.

Up to four different profiles on the same Disney+ account can join a GroupWatch and stream together too, although these will still count against the seven-viewer total.

Disney also notes that kids’ profiles aren’t eligible to participate in GroupWatch sessions “at this time.”

Users who are invited to your GroupWatch naturally also need to be Disney+ subscribers, and if you want to watch a “Premier Access” movie together (that is, Mulan), then every individual account holder must have purchased it separately — so Disney isn’t offering any loopholes to let you get out of paying for its content.

Once you’ve begun a GroupWatch on your iPhone or iPad you can swipe left to bring up a “reactions” screen where you can send emoji such as a smiley face, wink, laughing, and more to share your thoughts with your friends.

Reactions will appear in the bottom left corner of the screen alongside the name of the person making the reaction.

If you’re watching on a bigger screen, such as your Mac or PC or an Apple TV or other set-top streaming box or smart TV — according to Disney’s FAQ, GroupWatch should be available on most devices, although there are some exceptions — you can instead use your iPhone or iPad as a second screen to send out your reactions.

Unlike Hulu’s Watch Party, which lets everybody view a show at their own pace, Disney’s GroupWatch is designed for togetherness; while anybody can pause or resume playback, this will affect everybody in the group.

Disney also notes that GroupWatch is only designed to work among groups in the same country, although it might be possible in some cases to invite friends from across the border.

It doesn’t appear that Disney is putting any specific restrictions in place, but of course, not all movies and shows will be available in all countries.

When streaming episodic shows, the GroupWatch feature will also let you automatically continue watching the next episode in the series without having to create a new GroupWatch, so you can binge-watch The Mandalorian Season 1 with your friends in order to get caught up in time for season 2.

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