How to watch TV with friends—even when you can’t be together
Stay social without going out.
This story has been updated. It was originally published on August 19, 2018.
When you’re home alone, you can entertain yourself with an overwhelming variety of videos: cute cat clips on YouTube, the latest shows on Netflix, even the Super Bowl—just to name a few. But sometimes you don’t want to host a watch party for one. Thanks to the magic of the internet and a few well-chosen tools, you can invite your family and friends into the same virtual space and tune into whatever your heart desires, no matter where your crew actually is.
You bring the popcorn, and we’ll show you how to watch videos together when you’re apart.
For any online video: Kast
Kast is the most comprehensive video-watching option here, but it comes with a price. The free tier only lets you invite people to watch whatever’s available on free Kast TV, but sign up for the base membership ($10 per year) and you unlock the ability to share your screen with your virtual party guests—even if they have a free account. There’s also a premium level ($78 per year) that offers additional perks such as HD screen sharing. The web, desktop, and mobile app’s interface is polished and features both text and video chat.
Begin by visiting the site and signing up for an account. From the dashboard, hit Create Party to set things up. Then, invite guests by sending them the link to your party or searching for their Kast username. Start the party by using the icons at the bottom of the window to browse videos or share your screen. If any of this feels like the now-defunct video party service Rabbit, you’re right—Kast acquired what was left of Rabbit after the latter shut down in 2019.
For streaming services: Teleparty
If you want to watch Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, or HBO with friends, install Teleparty—a browser extension for Chrome, Opera, and Edge. Formerly known as Netflix Party, this plug-in creates a virtual viewing session that all participants tune into, with everyone’s video and audio automatically staying in sync. If you’re specifically looking to watch the Super Bowl, Teleparty can help as long as you’re subscribed to Hulu Plus Live TV.
It’s remarkably simple to use: When you want to set up your viewing session, just use your browser to open a video on one of those streaming services and click the Teleparty button. You can decide whether you want others to have control of the video content or to keep it all for yourself. Hit Start the party to get a unique session URL, which you can pass along to your fellow watchers. They’ll use their versions of the same extension to connect with your viewing session. As you all watch together, you can type your reactions and opinions into a group chat box.
For YouTube, Vimeo, Twitch, TikTok, and other social media: Watch2Gether
Watch2Gether works a lot like the other sites on this list: you create a virtual room, choose some content, and invite your friends along to watch and chat. But it offers more features than most other options, such as providing popular and recommended videos if you’re not sure what to watch next. In addition to the standard text chat, it also allows you to add webcam feeds so you and your friends can see each others’ faces.
You don’t need an account to use Watch2Gether. Just head to the website and click Create your room, which should take you to a unique web address. When you go to that virtual room, you can use the search box at the top of the page to look for videos by keyword or pasting URLs from a variety of websites. It works well for YouTube, Vimeo, and Twitch, but you may need to install a Chrome extension to use video from other sites, such as TikTok. When you know what you want to watch, hit the Invite friends button (an avatar with a plus symbol) in the top right to share the room address with other people. They can join you by clicking that URL, no sign-up required. This may also be a good replacement if you were a fan of Facebook’s Watch Party feature, which the site shut down in April 2021.
Watch2Gether is free online.
For YouTube: Sync-Tube
To watch YouTube clips with friends, try Sync-Tube, which has a clean layout that makes its interface very easy to use. Sync-Tube works through a website, so you won’t have to install new software or add a browser extension. You don’t even need to create a dedicated account. Instead, you visit the site, set up a viewing room with a unique URL, and add links from YouTube to the room’s playlist. Then share the URL with anyone you want to join you. A text chat box underneath or alongside the video lets your friends keep up a running commentary on what’s happening. And make sure you check the Settings to make sure you haven’t accidentally made the room public or applied the wrong permissions.
Sync-Tube is free online.