Disney+ is the latest streaming app to add support for Apple’s SharePlay, the iOS 15 feature that offers a co-viewing experience over FaceTime video calls on iPhone, iPad, Mac or Apple TV devices. First announced during Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June, SharePlay rolled out with the iOS 15.1 update, soon offering co-viewing experiences across a variety of apps, including NBA, TikTok, Twitch, Paramount+ and Showtime, as well as Apple’s own apps like Apple TV+, Apple Music and Apple Fitness, among others.
Disney+, however, has been a long-awaited addition to this lineup, as Apple had announced during WWDC that the streaming service would be among those supporting the new feature.
Today, the companies are making good on that promise with the release of a Disney+ app update that will allow subscribers to use the SharePlay feature on Apple’s iOS, iPadOS and tvOS devices. Disney says the feature will be compatible globally across the entire Disney+ catalog from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic. This includes its new titles like Marvel Studios’ “Hawkeye,” “Welcome to Earth” and its upcoming Disney+ premieres, like “Encanto,” which arrives on Christmas Eve (December 24), and the “The Book of Boba Fett,” which becomes available starting on December 29.
Once updated, users will be able to host and attend SharePlay sessions that allow up to 32 people to co-watch Disney+ together. This could make for an easy way for a family who can’t be together for the holidays to have a Disney movie night, for example, or a way to entertain the kids by having them stream Disney+ with friends back home while out of town for a holiday trip, among other things.
The SharePlay feature itself is relatively easy to use as it’s built into the FaceTime app. To use the feature, you’ll first start the FaceTime call, then open the Disney+ app. A notice will appear at the top of the screen alerting you that SharePlay is available. You’ll tap play on the content you want to watch and begin watching with everyone else on the call. The playback controls are available to everyone else on the SharePlay session, allowing each user to press play, pause, rewind or fast forward.
Disney notes that each participant can select the audio and subtitles in the language of their choice when streaming on their device. The feature also offers multiple viewing options, allowing people to watch the streaming content on their Apple TV while still FaceTiming with friends and family on their iPhone.
SharePlay has been one of the more interesting features in the iOS 15 release, as it seems like a natural next direction for the FaceTime software in an age where social distancing and remote work have become the norm, and apps like Zoom have crossed into consumer territory. In addition to supporting co-watching, users can also screen-share over SharePlay, even launching apps and browsing together — great for anything from online shopping to offering aging family members remote tech support.
To use SharePlay to stream Disney+, all participants must be running at least iOS 15.1, iPadOS 15.1 and tvOS 15.1, and they’ll need to be a Disney+ subscriber.
Though Disney is embracing SharePlay, its own in-app co-viewing feature, called GroupWatch, will continue to be available to all subscribers in the same country across compatible devices.
“We’re very excited to launch SharePlay on Disney+ for Apple users in time for the holidays and ahead of several highly anticipated premieres,” said Jerrell Jimerson, EVP of Product & Design, Disney Streaming, in a statement. “With thousands of movies and shows and a growing content catalog of new titles and originals, SharePlay provides another opportunity for personal friends and family around the world to come together and create new memories with their favorite stories on Disney+,” he added.