How to Host a Virtual Watch Party

There’s nothing better than going to movies with some pals. OK, staying inside and away from people so that you don’t spread a deadly virus is way better, actually. Still, it’s nice to watch stuff with friends sometimes, even if you can’t be together. Luckily, there’s a number of sources online that will let you stave off the shelter-in-place blues by hosting your own virtual watch parties.

Here are your best options.

Just Use Zoom

WIRED: Video chat. Only one person needs a streaming subscription.

TIRED: Picture quality is not always great. Syncing audio and video can be an issue. Kinda janky.

This option is the most flexible. Where the other streaming services require each person to have an active (paid) account to participate, the method just requires one person with an account to share their screen. By now, the mechanics of Zoom likely have been embedded deep into your psyche , so the following steps should be pretty simple. If not, check out our guide to getting started with Zoom .

First, queue up the video you want to play and start a Zoom meeting. Click the green “share screen” button on the bottom of the Zoom window. A popup will let you select which application you want to share. Select the browser window that has the video in it. But wait! Before you click “share,” look for two checkboxes down at the lower-left corner of the sharing options tab. They’re options to “share computer sound” and “optimize screen sharing for video clip.” Make sure both boxes are checked. Now click “share” and you’re set. If need be, the host can adjust the volume on the video player itself to make it easier to hear the other video participants.

As for downsides, well, Zoom isn’t exactly perfect . For our purposes here, the video quality isn’t always great. Lags or stuttering can get frustrating if you have a slow connection. Also, if the meeting host is using Zoom’s free version, each meeting is limited to 40 minutes—hardly ideal for a movie marathon. If you aren’t keen to pay for a Zoom subscription, there are some creative ways to get around the time limit.Netflix Party

WIRED: Good video quality. Text chat.

TIRED: No video or voice chat. Everyone watching needs a Netflix account.

Netflix Party is the big fish of the remote watch party ecosystem right now. It’s a third-party browser extension that allows up to 50 people to watch anything on Netflix together.

To get started, you’ll first have to install the Netflix Party extension. (It’s only available on Chrome and Opera browsers.) If it doesn’t show up right away, restart your browser, then look for an icon that looks like a puzzle piece in the top right corner of Chrome (it’s right by your profile picture). Click that, and it will give you a list of your extensions. Click the pin icon next to the NP logo and it will keep it at the top of your browser window.
If the NP icon is grayed out, it won’t do anything. Open Netflix and select what you want to watch. Once the video starts playing, the NP icon will turn red. Click it, then click “Start the Party.” (There is also a checkbox that lets you choose if only the host can control the playback.) A box will pop up with a URL that you’ll need to copy and send to everyone you’re inviting to the watch party. If you click out of the box too soon, just click the icon that looks like a chain link in the top right corner to copy the address.