The Beeb has just launched BBC Together, an experimental new feature that lets you binge Killing Eve, or Normal People, or whatever show you’re into on iPlayer in sync with the people you’ve been missing during lockdown. Here’s how it works.
If you’re hosting, step one is to pick a programme. As well as iPlayer, BBC Together works with content on BBC Sounds, Bitesize, News and Sport.
Step two is to choose the people you’d like to watch along with. One you’ve completed step one, you’ll get a link that you’ll be able to share with the others. All they need to do to join is click it.
Once everyone’s ready, just hit play and, Wi-Fi permitting, you should all be watching along perfectly in sync. It’s like live TV, only on demand.
On the one hand, it’s the perfect feature for this moment. Families and friends are missing each other deeply, and BBC Together gives them the ability to try to do something completely ordinary together.
But on the other, it isn’t hard to imagine it ruining TV time for some.
BBC Together doesn’t have its own chat function, but it’s clearly designed to be used alongside a video chatting app, like Zoom, Google Meet or WhatsApp. So as well as constant chattering, you’ll likely have to put up with having your attention split between two things, and possibly even two screens.
Everyone is also at the mercy of the host, who has the ability to pause, rewind or skip ahead − for everyone. Which means, if you need to nip to the loo at any point, you have to ask the host first.
And then, of course, BBC Together will only work as smoothly as the slowest Wi-Fi connection.
I do think there’s potential though.
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“We wanted to see if technology could bring people together to watch and listen to BBC shows remotely as a shared experience, which we’ve done with BBC Together,” said Dr Libby Miller, the senior R&D producer at BBC R&D.
“It’s important to say that it’s just a test at this stage – and we’ll be monitoring how well it works and thinking about how we could change it in the future, but we’re looking forward to seeing and hearing about the creative ways that people use it and getting their feedback on Taster.”
Taster is the BBC’s testing ground for news features. Follow this link to try out BBC Together.
Related: How to use BBC Together