Facebook expands its Watch Parties to offline TV events

Last year, Facebook launched Watch Party: a way for people to communally enjoy internet videos together with reactions and real-time chat. Today, Facebook has announced it’s testing a way of making that work for offline television.

Basically, it will provide the same kind of environment for live events where Facebook can’t stream the actual video, but where likeminded people still want to discuss the events unfolding.

If a group discussing a video that can’t be seen sounds like a fairly weak offering, Facebook intends to offer decorations to make it more appealing. For example, if a big match is on TV, Facebook will let you add relevant widgets to the chat: a live scoreboard, say, or the option for hosts to add trivia questions about player stats, with live polls over who’ll win the game and so on.

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While Facebook clearly has sports in mind (it cites the UEFA Champions League as one event where the new feature will be tested), this is just the tip of the iceberg. “While we’re testing this initially with sports, we can’t wait to bring it to all kinds of live events and cultural moments, from awards shows to highly anticipated show premieres and more,” the company writes in a newsroom post.

Facebook says that more than 12 million people have had Watch Parties in Groups since the feature launched last year, and notes that they tend to get eight times the comments that regular videos do. It’ll also be looking jealously over at Twitter, which gets huge engagement during cultural events with shared hashtags and watchalongs.

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In other words, it’s clear that people like watching TV with a phone in their hand – and if people are online anyway, Facebook would rather it was their ads users were being served.

Do you use Facebook Watch Party? Does this sound like an improvement? Let us know what you think on Twitter: @TrustedReviews.