Spending a year-plus at home in near isolation opened many people’s eyes to the multi-faceted appeal of hanging out together at a distance. So even now, as the world slowly creeps back toward something resembling normal — and with lots of social circles disrupted by unexpected moves — we’re still hosting all sorts of remote hangs, including distanced movie nights on Netflix and other streaming services.
Trying to all hit play at the same moment — as well as juggling between Netflix and Skype, a Facebook chat, Slack, or any other online chat program — isn’t exactly the most convenient thing in the world. Luckily, there is another way.
There are several options out there that let you achieve the goal of syncing up Netflix streams across the Internet. There’s no perfect option, so prepare to deal with technical hiccups, less-than-ideal viewing experiences, and having the best and highest-quality features locked behind a paywall. But do you really need perfect when the goal is less about watching a movie and more about hanging with friends? These options will help you achieve both well enough.
1. Teleparty (formerly Netflix Party)
Teleparty is a free Google Chrome-exclusive extension that’s simple to set up and can support groups of up to 50 people in text-only chat (though that number is somewhat dependent on how strained the service’s servers are). Plus, in addition to Netflix, Teleparty also works with Hulu, Disney+, and HBO Max. The only catch is that everyone needs a Netflix account (or whichever other streaming service) of their own.
Once you install the extension, choose a movie or show from your desired streamer, hit play, immediately pause it, and finally click the red “NP” button at the top right of your browser to get a link to a shared session. The extension allows you to chat with everyone in the viewing session, and people can set their own user icon and nickname to help everyone identify one another.
Teleparty allows for full-screen viewing and anybody in the session can hit pause, play, or scrub through the timeline. The stream adjusts seamlessly.
The biggest downside to Teleparty is that if you want to watch a few episodes of something or another movie, you’ll have to create a new session every time. Even if Netflix (or any other streamer) autoplays to the next episode, it will kick everyone out of the session and you’ll have to send out a new link to everyone.
2. Kast (formerly Rabbit)
Kast is one of the most well-rounded stream-sharing services available, partially because it can be used with any browser, as well as Android and iOS devices, and partially because you can share all your favorite streaming services, not just Netflix. But note that the features most people will want require a subscription
Kast requires you to have an account and add the people you want to share a stream with as your friends. It works by having one person in control of the stream, which can be piped to participating viewers through either Kast TV or a shared screen. This is where cost becomes a factor.
Free users are able to join parties and make use of social features like text, voice, and video chat. But the streaming options are restricted to a limited version of Kast TV for free users, which means you’re only able to stream stuff from YouTube or Tubi. Paying subscribers can also access a Kast TV premium library — we’re not sure what’s in there, but that’s not the primary reason to subscribe.
The real value of a Kast subscription is the ability to screen share while making use of the service’s social and chat features — meaning if you can play it on your computer screen, you can broadcast it out to people in your party. If you’re looking for dirt cheap, Kast Base is $9.99 per year and it unlocks standard definition screen sharing.
The Kast Premium plan is a bit pricier, at $6.49 per month (or $59.99 per year). That tier gets you HD screen sharing up to 1080p, as well as an ad-free experience. You can see a fuller breakdown of how the plans compare right here.
Discord stands alone on this list because it’s the only option that’s not technically built specifically for a watch party-like experience. It’s a chat app not unlike Slack that started out primarily as a go-to destination for PC gamers craving a free option for hosting voice chat parties without having to rely on those features being built into individual games.
Now, of course, Discord is a juggernaut and a household name in tech-savvier homes. Slack still rules in the enterprise space, but Discord has become something of a go-to for everyone else thanks to its crystal-clear voice chat and array of features, including free screen sharing.
We’ll get to the paid options, but even the free version of Discord plays relatively nice with watch parties, with streams maxing out at 30 FPS (which really matters more when you’re gaming) and 720p. The only downside is the host needs to remain in the Discord app during the stream; switching to another window pauses whatever you’re watching.
Discord, which is available in browser and as a PC or mobile app, also has its subscription tiers: Nitro and Nitro Classic. The Classic option is $4.99 per month or $49.99 per year and it should be more than adequate for anyone who wants an upgrade from the free experience. Subscribers can bump up their max screen share resolution to 1080p at 30 FPS.
The more expensive option is $9.99 per month or $99.99 annually and it lets users stream content at the “source” resolution (which, yes, means 4K streams are possible). But honestly, that’s going to be overkill for this kind of viewing experience for most people. Especially since a higher-quality stream requires more bandwidth, so you’ll need pretty solid internet performance at home to max out your streams.
The advantage of Discord is flexibility. Just like Kast, you can stream anything you’re able to put up on your monitor. But with Discord you also get a widely used platform that’s available on multiple devices (including PlayStation in 2022) with easy-to-manage social features and a proven track record.
This story was originally published in 2017 and updated in 2021.