There are third-party extensions like Scener that allow us to watch content from Netflix, HBO, and other services together while staying apart during these times of coronavirus-induced social distancing orders, but Plex is ready to up this with a native solution. It has announced a new Plex Labs experiment that allows you to watch shows, movies, and videos from your library together with others, perfectly synced up for everyone.
The feature is called Watch Together and currently in beta. It works on Android and iOS devices as well as Android TV, FireTV, and Roku. It will come to desktops later on. You'll be able to play media from your personal library or any of the free, ad-supported films and TV shows from Plex's streaming service. To start a party, you need to tap the more button in a title's preplay screen and select "Watch Together." You can then invite folks you'd like to watch the title with — make sure you're friends with them on Plex. Once you've summoned your watch party and started the show, every participant can play, pause, or seek, all of which will be synced across to other viewers.
Plex warns that there are a ton of rough edges and is asking early adopters for feedback on which features they want. For example, you currently can't invite more people after you've started a session, though re-joining is possible. There are also no checks in place hindering you from adding too many viewers — if you stream to more people at once than your server or connection can handle, all participants may experience extensive buffering.
Left: Everyone will know who paused playback. Right: Watch Together carousel you'll see when you get invited.
If you want to stay in touch while you watch, you currently have to use third-party text, audio, or video call services, but Plex might add a native solution if demand is high enough.
For the time being, the feature is available for free, though parts of it may become Plex Pass-exclusive later on. Make sure you're on the latest version of Plex to start using Watch Together — it's available on version 8.1.0 and higher. Grab the release from the Play Store or APK Mirror.