(Scener Photograph)

HBO additional a new video chat attribute to its HBO Now and HBO GO applications, allowing for subscribers to look at reveals and motion pictures “together” via a Google Chrome extension.

The “virtual movie theater” engineering is driven by Scener, a two-yr-previous Seattle startup that was incubated inside of RealNetworks.

The notion is to enable persons look at reside streams alongside one another amid the shelter-in-position mandates that have shut down movie theaters and prevented get-togethers. Viewers can host look at events with up to 20 persons all should be subscribers. It is identical in features to Netflix Occasion or Twitch’s Enjoy Get-togethers.

Scener originally launched software package that additional picture-in-picture commentary to streaming reveals and motion pictures. The firm pivoted to a co-looking at model — a alter that has paid out off as persons appear for ways to hook up socially without having leaving their properties. Scener has viewed a 15X surge in targeted traffic in excess of the past several months, mentioned co-founder Joe Braidwood.

“It’s accelerated our thesis and created it a lot more serious,” Braidwood mentioned.

The Scener staff. (Scener Photograph)

An govt at HBO’s Seattle engineering middle approached Scener about enabling the co-looking at attribute as the social distancing orders were place in position. The firms worked alongside one another in excess of the past two months on the integration.

The Chrome extension works on Home windows, Mac, or Chromebook. There are video, audio, and text chat characteristics. Scener also works with Netflix.

Even in a article-pandemic world, Braidwood is assured that Scener will go on attracting users. He pointed out long lasting conduct changes from the pandemic — steering clear of the movie theater, for instance — and the escalating routine of connecting in excess of streaming media on platforms these as Twitch.

The pandemic has spawned other interactive engineering. Houseparty, the video chat app that has skyrocketed in recognition, enabled co-looking at of reside occasions this week.

Scener options to keep its software package no cost for users and take a look at opportunity income versions with sector partners. The firm has five workers and is looking to elevate financial commitment later on this yr. It has officially spun out of RealNetworks Rob Glaser, RealNetworks CEO, stays chairman of the startup.