Have you ever tried to watch your favorite content with your friends, simultaneously, from remote places?
I have been at it for the last couple of months, and I have to tell you that it's a no-brainer. Watching shows and movies with friends and commenting on the developments is as joyful as it sounds.
And the Roku TV, one of the best streaming devices on the planet, makes the job even better with its 4K resolution streaming capabilities and its easy-come-easy-go interface.
But you may ask "Can you do a watch party on Roku though?" Well, actually, you can and cannot.
The watch party feature is not yet available on Roku devices but apps like Amazon Prime and Hulu support it. To do a watch party on Roku, stream on any of these apps on a mobile device or a browser on your PC. Then simply cast/mirror the screen of your streaming device onto Roku to watch content on the big screen. The Watch With Friends app allows you to stream Netflix with friends, and the app can automatically detect a Roku device and play the media on it.
This step-by-step guide will help you do a watch party with your family and friends on your Roku device.
Streaming Through Casting/Mirroring
As I mentioned earlier, group streaming and watch party capabilities have not yet made their way to Roku.
The only plausible way to stream and watch content with your loved ones is through casting or mirroring the content from a supported device.
Several apps like Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and Disney+ have party streaming capabilities. But, they are limited to mobile phones and PC browsers only.
But that's not a terrible thing since we have cast and mirroring options available on these devices. Roku, too, can flawlessly cast and stream content on it, provided, under obliging conditions.
Make sure you have connected both the devices on the same network to cast/mirror properly.
Although casting doesn't require any additional settings (all you need to have is an app that supports casting), screen mirroring can be controlled in some ways or the other on Roku.
And by control, I mean the level of visibility and permissions that you can configure.
To configure screen mirroring on Roku, follow these steps.
1. On the Home screen, click and open the Settings icon.
2. Click on System, and then select Screen Mirroring.
3. Under the screen mirroring mode setting, select the appropriate option.
4. Prompt will bring up a prompt message every time a device wants to share its screen. Always allow will show no prompt and allow any device to connect. Never allow will block all mirroring requests made to your device.
After setting the right configuration on your Roku, all you have to do is select the screen mirroring option on your Streaming device. Depending on the mobile device you choose, the name of this feature may vary.
Apple has Airplay, or simply screen mirroring, while android devices use names like Smart view, Quick Connect, Allshare Cast, etc. depending on the manufacturer. Roku devices have native support for Airplay. It is easy to mirror iPad to Roku.
Swipe down the control/notification center on your phone and select the appropriate screen mirroring shortcut from the quick settings menu.
Select the Roku device from the list and if you have enabled the Prompt option on the Roku, click on Allow or Always allow for sharing the screen.
In the case of Windows devices, open the Action Center from the taskbar and click on Connect. Select the Roku device and wait for the connection to be established. If you cannot connect to the device, make sure you have enabled the feature on Windows by going to Settings>System>Display>Connect to a wireless display.
Now let's take a look at how to enable Watch-party on various apps.
Amazon Prime Video - Prime Watch Party
Although available solely to PC Browsers and Amazon's firestick devices, the Amazon Prime Video's Prime watch party is a killer feature.
With its vast library of curated content and support for various other streaming services embedded within the app, Amazon Prime Video can cater to all your entertainment needs.
To do a watch party on Amazon Prime Video:
1. In the browser, search and open Amazon Prime Video.
2. Search and select the video of your choice to start the watch party.
3. Once inside the title page of the video, click on the watch part logo.
4. Enter a name under the "What's your Name?" option.
5. Click Create Watch Party to generate a link.
6. You can invite up to 100 people using the Share icon or copying the link and sharing it via a third-party service, like WhatsApp or Email.
Note that all users must be present in the same country as the host, and all of the participants must have an Amazon Prime subscription.
Disney+ - GroupWatch
With a ton of content and the availability of all the Marvel movies and shows, Disney+ has become one of the giants in the streaming game. Its GroupWatch feature can pair up to 7 devices to watch and stream content concurrently.
Unlike other popular streaming services, the GroupWatch feature is available on some high-end Roku devices like certain Roku TVs and Ultra devices. Even so, the number is small in comparison to the wide range of devices Roku offers.
It is also available on Android, iOS, Windows, and certain other smart TVs and streaming devices.
To enable the GroupWatch feature, follow these steps.
1. In the app, search and open the content of your choice.
2. Click on the GroupWatch icon to open the GroupWatch tab.
3. Click on the "+" icon to generate the GroupWatch link.
4. Click on the copy link or invite option to share the link or invite people.
5. Once a person joins, you will be able to see the account picture of the invitee.
All participants must have an active Disney+ subscription to join GroupWatch.
Hulu - Watch Party
Another mammoth streaming service thriving in the game right now is Hulu. With its virtually unending hours of content on offer and live TV capabilities, it is one of the best streaming services out there.
The watch party feature on Hulu even provides a chat room feature on the right side of the interface for live interactions with each other.
The downside, it is limited to only certain browsers as of now. A total of 8 participants is also a paltry sum in comparison to other streaming services.
To enable the watch part feature on Hulu, follow these instructions.
1. On the browser, open Hulu.
2. Search for the content you want to watch with your friends/relatives.
3. Click on the Watch party logo if available since not all shows and movies support Watch party.
4. Click on Start the party to open a tab with a link.
5. Click on the chain logo to share the link with your friends/relatives.
6. Click on Start Party to start streaming.
Watch with Friends for Streaming Netflix with Friends
Watch with Friends, a stream-sharing app developed by Caavo, is solely aimed at providing watch-party-like features for Netflix.
The app is free and is available on Apple, Roku, and PC as a Chrome extension, though you cannot download or install the service on your Roku.
The app automatically detects the Roku device connected to the same network and enables a casting-like feature to stream content on Roku.
The Host of the stream can pause or seek the video for everyone and can also enable a chat room feature for live interactions with each other.
To enable Watch with Friends:
1. First, make sure you have installed the Chrome extension on the browser, or the app on your Apple device. Then, open Netflix.
2. Search for the content of your choice and click on the share option.
3. Copy the link and head on to the Watch with friends app.
4. Click on Create a new Party.
5. Paste the link in the provided column. If it is a show, you can select the season and the episode of your choice.
6. Click on Next, and then enter the Party name and the Host PIN(4 digit PIN).
7. Click on Create party to confirm, and then click on Invite friends and send the link through any of the professed methods.
8. The invitee should enter the PIN to join.
9. The host can then click on Start party once everyone has joined.
10. On the next screen, you can choose which device you want to stream. Click on the Roku device.
11. You can control the chat and the video playback through the app or the browser extension.
Although there are apps, other than the ones I have mentioned here, that support Watch party streams, none of them are as reliable as the natively supported apps or the Watch with Friends app.
Common bug issues and connectivity issues plague these apps and can make your streaming experience a forgettable one.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Can I stream local content from my computer via Watch With Friends?
Watch With Friends currently does not support local media streaming. The best way to do that is to set up a plex account and stream directly via the plex app.
Can we use Watch With Friends even if we are on multiple operating systems?
Watch With Friends is available on ios, android, and your browser as a chrome extension. The extension is available only on chromium-based browsers. Apple’s Safari and other browsers are not supported as of now.
Prime Video’s native watch party is not working on my Roku. What should I do?
Prime Video Watch Party is not natively supported on Roku, but if you have a laptop you can use that and cast the laptop screen directly to your Roku via Chromecast.