Sync Watching: The New Way to View Shows with Friends

Binge Sync Watching Invite

Years ago, when I first moved to Los Angeles, I didn’t have a TV or a car. A really good friend of mine had just moved to LA and she was going to pick me up and bring me over to her house to watch the Emmys on TV. Perfect, right? Then my friend got food poisoning and the idea of driving an inch away from her home was just NOT happening. She still wanted to watch the show with me so she called me and described what everyone was wearing. When the winners went up to collect their awards she held her phone up to the TV so I could hear their acceptance speeches.

Over the years I have watched TV shows and texted with friends, tweeted through live TV events online, and Skyped with friends during a premiere of a new movie on a premium cable channel. Why not plan a night of friend entertainment for Valentine’s Day? I won’t be going out on Friday night with a Valentine, but I am still a complete romantic and I love to watch movies with cupid-type themes and I’d like to have company. Maybe some of my friends would be up for “sync watching” some movies with me?

According to a recent NY Times article, here’s how people all over the world have been “sync watching”:

“Sync-watchers have hacked an array of workarounds to stay connected. They share episodes using Dropbox. They fire up a show on iTunes on a laptop, then use Skype’s screen-sharing feature to beam it to, say, China, and a friend behind its Great Firewall. They poise iPads on their beds and turn on FaceTime so that others can watch their faces reacting to the wilder twists of plot. They text and Facebook-message during the show to share their astonishment and judgmental asides. Sometimes they must resynchronize after ads, as different patches of earth sprout different promotions.”

The article included several different methods for “sync watching” but it mostly comes down to three needs:

1) Everyone must have access to the same show/movie

2) Everyone must be available to watch at an agreed upon time

3) Everyone must have the ability to communicate with each other while the show/movie is playing.


What can we watch on Friday, February 14th?

Tackling step one, having access to the same show or movie, it’s time to figure out what is available. If we stick to network and cable TV during east coast times our options are men’s figure skating via the Olympics and a showing of The Prince & Me on ABC Family.

Starting on Friday, the second season of House of Cards will be available on Netflix. Bull Durham and Flashdance are also new to Netflix streaming this month.


How do you coordinate watch times?

The most logical way would be email. If you have complicated schedules you can bring in Doodle to help you out with finding out when folks are free. Since this could turn out to be a Valentine’s party, I vote for something more fun and festive like the card in this post.


How do you communicate while watching?

When it comes to communicating during a show, you want as close to live as you can get. The idea is to feel like your friends are sitting on the sofa right next to you. If you are just sync watching with one friend, Facetime on your iPhone is super easy to use and you can see and hear each other. Skype is great if you are sync watching with a group and are cool with just having the audio (or if you have purchased Skype premium you can have group video). There’s even a detailed video about how to watch movies together over Skype. Google hangouts will allow you to see each other’s faces and hear each other laugh as you watch the show. If you have a solid Internet connection, you can have one person on the Google hangout share their screen and everyone can watch on their computer together. I have never tried that method, but several people in the Times article said it was their go-to way to sync watch.

Then there is always the telephone. It seems almost old-fashioned to suggest it, but sometimes Ma Bell is just the easiest way to connect.

Have you ever done any sync watching with friends?

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