We tried out the new BBC Together service to watch TV with our friends – here’s how it went

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When it comes to watching telly, there’s lots to be mentioned for the collective viewing expertise. The laughter of a buddy could make your favorite sitcom that little bit extra amusing, the gasp of a liked one can elevate the week’s must-watch drama into one thing all the extra thrilling, and, in fact, who can resist becoming a member of in with relations as you play alongside with the newest quiz present?

And so the new BBC Together service, which was introduced yesterday, will come as welcome information to those that have discovered their viewing habits modified by the ongoing lockdown. Related to present providers like Netflix Occasion, the characteristic permits viewers to watch their favorite reveals at the identical time as household and friends – regardless of the place in the nation they could be positioned.

As issues stand, BBC Together remains to be in the Analysis and Improvement stage, with senior R&D producer Dr Libby Miller saying, “we’ll be monitoring how nicely it works and excited about how we may change it in the future, however we’re wanting ahead to seeing and listening to about the artistic ways in which individuals use it and getting their suggestions on Taster.”

So, keen to discover out how profitable the experiment was we determined to give the new operate a go. I contacted a few friends located elsewhere in the UK to be my guinea pigs, we began a video name and we tried it out – here’s how it went…

How simple is BBC Together to get arrange?

Excellent news: it couldn’t be simpler!

You want to choose one member of your occasion as the host viewer –  I served this function throughout our experiment – who might be liable for the bulk of the arrange. This viewer chooses a programme (after consulting with friends in fact) to watch or pay attention to on iPlayer, BBC Sounds or BBC Bitesize after which heads to the BBC Together web site to paste the URL of the chosen programme into the clearly marked area.

BBC Together

From there, the host viewer will get a new hyperlink which they’ll copy and ship to their friends by way of e mail or a messaging app (you’ll be requested by the website to be sure that your friends are glad to obtain this hyperlink). These friends merely want to click on that hyperlink after which they’re in – they need to now see the identical display as the host viewer.

This units it aside from different providers corresponding to Netflix Occasion – for which every particular person participant wants to have enabled a browser extension. There’s no want for any of that right here, as quickly as you’ve clicked the hyperlink despatched to you by the host viewer you’re in, which ought to make it simpler for these corresponding to elder family who won’t be as comfy with know-how.

So if you happen to take away the time at the begin of our name spent chatting and catching up, it took lower than a few minutes between selecting a programme to watch (we opted for an episode of Limmy’s Home made Present) and starting our viewing.

Did we encounter any technical difficulties whereas watching?

We did – though they had been comparatively minor and simply rectified. Inside the first couple minutes of watching, we observed that there was a slight echo, however this disappeared as quickly as all of us placed on headphones – so I might suggest that these wishing to strive out the service have these simply at hand.

One other situation that relates much less to BBC Together itself however can nonetheless impact the general expertise is selecting which video messaging service to use alongside. We determined to change from Fb Messenger to Zoom early on, as this allowed us to view the video alongside the programme – making certain we had the added good thing about watching one another’s reactions. (That mentioned, it’s value pointing out that Zoom’s 40-minute restrict for group calls signifies that in case your watching a programme longer than that size you’ll have to begin a new name half means by way of – which may add a little bit of pointless faff.)

BBC Together

I must also add that my experiment included solely three members – there’s a slight likelihood that these watching in bigger teams would possibly encounter different issues, however I’ve to say based mostly on our expertise I can’t think about that being the case.

Past that, as soon as we’d sorted out the echo situation and chosen our most well-liked video app, we bumped into no additional issues; the video high quality was wonderful, there was no buffering and all of us laughed at the identical factors!

Does BBC Together add to the viewing expertise?

On stability I might say that it completely does. My earlier expertise of group watchalongs had consisted of 1 member screen-sharing on Zoom – which led to far decreased high quality and was one thing of a problem.

However watching little bit of telly whereas having the ability to share reactions with shut friends is certainly a worthwhile expertise, and whereas it won’t be precisely the identical as watching in the identical room it was a fairly good recreation of that have.

One doable enchancment could be the introduction of a chat room characteristic – which is accessible on Netflix Occasion – to make it that little bit simpler for friends and household to focus on the present with out speaking over dialogue, whereas permitting different members of the watch occasion to have management over the pause operate may additionally assist.

bbc+together

Afterwards, I requested my friends who had joined in with the name for his or her ideas to see in the event that they agreed.

The primary participant mentioned, “It was general an fulfilling expertise – good video high quality which synced nicely with my buddies. Attention-grabbing to evaluate to related tech corresponding to Netflix Occasion which I’ve utilized in the previous. The 2 providers actually run as easily as one another and have fast and straightforward arrange.

“Netflix Occasion requires that each one wishing to stream collectively have the extension put in on Google Chrome however has the added advantages of a textual content chat room and the capacity for all members to pause no matter is being watched.

“BBC Together doesn’t want further software program however can solely be managed by the host. Based mostly on my interactions so far I might be glad to suggest each to anyone wishing to watch reveals with friends or household.”

Whereas the different added, “It really works means higher than I anticipated, and together with a video calling app like Zoom, is about as shut to watching a present spherical your mate’s home as you’re going to get in the foreseeable future.”

I might go alongside with these suggestions – BBC Together is a welcome addition to the broadcaster’s service and I can actually see it being successful in these difficult occasions.

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