By Harry Pettit For Mailonline Families could soon gather together to spend a night-in watching television in separate rooms from anywhere in the world, following a recent trend in ‘social viewing’ features that brings the communal viewing experience to virtual reality.  Facebook is one of the leading platforms in this field, thanks to its Watch Party feature, which allows friends in different locations to watch shows together while sharing emoji and written comments from their smartphone or computer. According to the company, the goal is to make watching videos online a social experience, rather than a passive one.

Experts believe this will force rival platforms, like Netflix and BBC iPlayer, to create similar offerings for their customers, which could push traditional TV gatherings out of the living room for good. Streaming giants are hoping to tap into the habits of the almost three in four Britons who already juggle an extra screen while watching television.

A new wave of ‘social viewing’ is turning television into a virtual party. Platforms like Facebook’s Watch Party (pictured) are encouraging friends in different locations to jointly watch shows while sharing emoji and comments using their smartphone Watch Party, which the social network started to test in January, allows Facebook group owners to invite their members to watch videos together.

Emojis and comments left by members will roll over the clips, which can be streamed live, or pre-recorded and shared on Facebook. Facebook groups with early access to the feature include the Dogspotting Society, whose members watch ‘heart-warming’ clips of canines together, Facebook said.

If these initial ‘small tests’ prove successful, the social feature will be expanded to more users, according to Facebook’s head of video Fidji Simo. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said last year that ‘communities formed around video like TV shows or sports create a greater sense of belonging than many other kinds of communities. Read more from…

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