Tuesday 19 May 2020 12:01 am

Party crasher: BBC launches new co-watching feature to rival Netflix

The BBC has today launched a new feature that will allow people to watch and listen to programmes together even while they are separated.

BBC Together allows people to access video and audio content from iPlayer, Sounds, Bitesize, News and Sport at exactly the same time.

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The feature, which has been launched by the broadcaster’s research and development (R&D) division, follows a similar move by US streaming giant Netflix.

However, unlike Netflix Party the new BBC tool does not offer a group chat service.

The rollout comes as the public service broadcaster looks to tap into increased demand during the coronavirus lockdown and fend off tough competition from Silicon Valley streaming rivals.

“There may be physical distance between us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy great programmes with our friends, family, colleagues and classmates,” said Dr Libby Miller, senior producer at BBC R&D.

“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.”

The new service has been launched on a trial basis on Taster, an online platform where the BBC tests new ideas and technologies.

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Like other broadcasters, the BBC has enjoyed a surge in viewing figures in recent months as millions of people have been forced to stay at home during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Normal People — the hit drama adapted from Sally Rooney’s novel — racked up more than 16m views on BBC iPlayer in its first week, driving BBC Three to its best week ever.