We know Netflix's 2022 will be chock-a-block with shows and movies to watch. What we don't know is if Netflix will fill the actually-shocking hole in its strategy. No, I'm not talking about the big red streaming machine's shockingly thin foray into gaming.
As much as I want Netflix to give us a proper send-off for Glow (season 4 or a movie, I'm begging you), I don't really care anymore about Netflix's canceled shows. The one thing I think Netflix needs to take seriously — as nearly everyone else is, are remote watch parties.
As the Covid-19 pandemic is still here, people will still be unable to spend as much time this year with others as they'd prefer. And up until now, Netflix has been okay with letting other people do the work.
But I do think Netflix will, eventually, get on board with watch parties. Let's look at its options.
Netflix Party isn't enough
Teleparty, formerly Netflix Party (opens in new tab), is a browser extension that lets people in different areas synchronously watch Netflix shows and specials. It even has a chat section. But these days, that's not enough. Not only has this been the baseline for entry for years for others (Hulu and Disney Plus offer similar tech), it's wildly limiting.
Who, I ask, voluntarily watches movies and TV shows on their laptop? Actual televisions still exist, and their larger screens are a lot easier to watch. So, what if Netflix's iPhone and Android apps added the functionality of Teleparty/Netflix Party? You could invite and join watch-alongs in the app, and use the app for chat and more.
For all the money Netflix throws at its major shows — even the ones that fail wildly like Jupiter's Legacy — it could stand to throw some cash at its own streaming tech. Netflix may not think this drives subscriber numbers, and therefore doesn't think it needs to. But it's going to be a necessity eventually, and they should get on board.
Netflix should just play nice with Apple
This would only solve some of Netflix's watch party problem, but Apple's already done the work on this. SharePlay is one of the new features that Apple introduced in 2021, and it does practically everything I could ask for a Watch Party technology.
Built into FaceTime, and distributed through Apple's 2021 software updates (iOS 15, iPadOS 15, macOS Monterey and tvOS 15), SharePlay lets you have a video call while you all watch a show or movie that's synced between devices. And since it's on all those operating systems, you can watch it on any Apple device. Herein, of course, lies the issue. Nobody's making this tech for Android, so those living in the green bubble (no judgement) are left out, again.
It's the major upgrade on the Disney Plus GroupWatch technology, because limiting yourself to a chat room feels so very 1993. An experience that hasn't evolved since the days of using dial-up to connect to AOL is not right for 2021 (nor is it good for 2022).
But while the likes of Disney Plus are on SharePlay (HBO Max and others are coming soon) Netflix is not even a part of the list of announced partners. Which makes me think two things. Firstly, Netflix may want want something Apple wouldn't give, such as audience information. The other possibility, and what I hope, Netflix is working on its own solution.
Should Netflix make a webcam?
On top of making the software for group watch parties on all their apps, Netflix should make a webcam, or at least partner with Logitech for one. Since cameras are in phones, tablets and laptops, Netflix only has to solve the issue that SharePlay doesn't. Facebook's Portal TV, which sits atop your set and turns it into an oversized smart display, would be a good model to emulate.
If you use SharePlay on an Apple TV, you need to use a second Apple device for the FaceTime part of the call. That's one too many devices to juggle, if you ask me.
So, please, Netflix. Take remote watch parties seriously. Your competitors do, and you seem to fancy yourself the best streaming service, so I hope you do, too.