Vevo's Watch Party lets you watch music videos in sync with your friends

Build a room and play VJ as your friends critique your terrible taste in music.
Nathan Ingraham
N. Ingraham|03.16.17

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Nathan Ingraham
March 16, 2017 11:00 AM

Ever since streaming video became commonplace, people have expressed a desire to be able to virtually have a movie night with friends who aren't in the same place. Google has even released an app that lets you watch YouTube in sync with friends on your phones. Vevo may not have feature films or popular TV shows on its service, but the company believes that letting friends simultaneously watch its vast catalog of music videos can be highly engaging.

To that end, Vevo is announcing a new feature called "Watch Party," which should be live by the end of the month. It lets you invite a bunch of friends to a room hosted on the Vevo website and build a queue of music videos that play back in sync regardless of where you're tuning in from. (Assuming you're in one of the 14 countries where Vevo is available, of course.) Anyone with a Vevo account can set up a "room" and start inviting friends to it. Once people start joining, the playback continues unabated; there's no way to pause or rewind. It's basically like you're all tuned in to MTV from your various homes, except that this version of MTV still plays music videos.

It's worth noting that when Watch Party launches, it will only be available on the desktop web version of Vevo. A company spokesperson said the company was specifically looking for ways to increase web engagement and also noted that they've gotten requests for such a feature from users. Data also showed higher desktop web usage during the work week. We'll almost surely see this feature come to mobile as well, but it's rather unusual to see something come to the web first these days.

In use, Watch Party is pretty straightforward. Once you create a room, you can start inviting friends, and everyone can start adding music videos to the queue. Alternately, if you want to play DJ without interference, you can set the room so that only the room's creator can add things to the playlist. If you choose the more collaborative option, users can vote on which videos they want to play sooner; songs with more votes will move up in the queue.

One of the best things about Watch Party is that there are no ads while watching in a party room. Vevo said it would explore adding them over time, but for now, at least, it wants to make sure there are no problems with the synchronized playback features. There's also a chat room built in so you and your friends can drop comments and emoji as you watch. Rooms are essentially permanent creations, too; once someone creates a room, it will be available for those invited to jump in and out of at any time. The room creator can always delete it, but otherwise you can just meet your friends there any time. If you ever used back in in the day, the concept is pretty similar, just with music videos instead of audio-only tracks.

While Watch Party isn't coming to mobile yet, the company does have another update coming soon for its iOS app. The home page when you start it up is being redesigned yet again. Last year, a big redesign made the "spotlight" feed the default view when you opened the app up, with full-screen tiles showing a selection of curated, recommended videos. Now, the home screen will more closely resemble what you might see when opening up Spotify.

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You'll still see videos you can jump right into: at the top is a "watch again" feed featuring your favorite videos. Scrolling down you'll find recommended playlists based on your viewing history, artist "stations" from the musicians you follow and curated sections for a particular vibe (like Friday Night vibes).

As for why it's making a big change after totally redesigning the app last summer, Vevo says it wasn't seeing the engagement it wanted from the home screen. A company spokesperson also noted that Vevo has a pretty deep collection of playlists and recommendations for users at this point and the old home screen simply wasn't surfacing them well enough. I'm inclined to agree: The new home screen may not be all that different than what you see when loading up other music apps, but there's a much greater variety of content to try.

For starters, the new home screen experience will come to iOS only, but it will roll out to Android later. It should be available for iOS by mid-April. If you want to try Watch Party, that will come sooner: Vevo says it should launch before the end of March.

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