Disney+ Groupwatch

Disney's social viewing feature connects people through the stories they love even when they're apart.

GroupWatch Devices

Storytelling is a fundamental human need.

How might we build social connection into the streaming experience? I led a cross-discipline team of 20+ product designers, researchers, animators, marketers, and illustrators from deep user research through international roll-out to try and answer this question. We built a beloved feature for Disney+ that connected people when they could not be together.


Double Diamond

Formative User Research

Nine months before Disney+ launched we conducted regular research into how families and friends watch content. Our studies taught us how families build a culture around viewing together, how the Disney brand relates to family culture, how families decide (or don't decide) what to watch, and how people are using new technology to stay connected.

research participants

These research studies helped us identify three specific problems we wanted to solve:

  1. How can Disney+ create a memorable viewing experience that brings families together when streaming content?
  2. Families with Older Kids (or Kids of varying ages) sometimes struggle to find something to watch together. How can Disney+ make it easy, and even fun, for families to find something to watch?
  3. How can Disney+ highlight short-form content that is compelling to Kids, makes Parents feel comfortable, and even something both Parents and Kids can watch together?

Inventions And Innovation

The patent application for the synchronization technologyThe patent application for Groupwatch's underlying technology.

At the same time the Design team was doing user research, an R&D technology team had invented a new method for synchronizing video across multiple devices. Their patented method made synchronization fast, scalable (supporting many devices and long distances), and unique to this method it was feasible on TV devices. This new tech had several potential applications such as remote controls, safety features, and co-viewing.

Alignment Workshop

Ideation Workshop My research & design teams partnered with the R&D team to facilitate a workshop to narrow down the options to one that would be feasible, viable, and desirable. The workshop explored several inventions in the team portfolio. By the end of the day, the group coalesced around an idea that would leverage the new tech and solve several of our user goals.


Double Diamond

In mid-summer 2019 almost all of Disney was heads down working to build and launch Disney+. Any work on post-release features, or iterative improvements, was a backburner initiative driven by the passion of a few people pushed forward at opportunistic moments.

We needed to rally more support from our executive leadership and from other teams across the company with whom we would partner on the production build.


Once we had alignment on the core use cases we wanted to solve, I paired a designer from my team with two developers from the R&D team. They collaborated over the next four weeks on a "Visiontype", a clickable prototype that showed a future state of what this feature could be.

The Visiontype is a powerful tool for gaining stakeholder buy-in, feeding user research studies, and communicating with other teams.

WeWatch Visiontype

Proof of concept

The R&D team created a proof of concept build using the core technology and designs from the Visiontype. Another designer on my team worked with them to create a sizzle reel to present to Disney leadership for roadmap buy-in and funding for further market research.

Market Research

Our executive leaders wanted to ensure there was a viable market for social-viewing. I partnered with our product marketing team, a VP of Product, and an external research firm to interview users about their co-viewing use and validate user perception of this feature.

Objectives & Key Results


Demonstrate Disney’s commitment to innovation and improving the guest experience.

Key Results

Experience Guidelines

The market research we collected along with the previous UX research gave us a foundation to start defining guidelines that would guide future product, design, and technology decisions. These were co-authored by teammates from Design, Product, and Product Marketing.

  1. GroupWatch must foster a feeling of being together
Strengthen social bonds through a positive shared experience. Build on features that touch people simultaneously, like reactions, playback control and rally points.
  2. GroupWatch is for intimate groups, i.e. family & close friends 
 GroupWatch will be most used by groups of 2-4 people, as opposed to community viewing (theatre) or massive social viewing party (Twitch).
  3. GroupWatch is additive to existing behaviors 
 Use mobile devices for communication and TVs for viewing. Tap into existing social norms for planning and watching.

Design Principles

Principles are a powerful way to align teams in big programs and guide decisions about tradeoffs in the design. Principles must address the specific user goals and business constraints of a project. Generic principles about "ease of use" and "delightful" do not aid critical thinking in a specific context.


Double Diamond

All the research and feedback helped clarify the primary user archetypes and their JTBDs. The single biggest interaction and UX challenge was helping the Host user archetype with the emotional labor of inviting people to watch together. We knew the invitation flow had to be frictionless and integrate with existing user behaviors.

Interaction design for the invite.

Two designers and a researcher partnered to refine the invite UI. Using Rapid Iterative Test Evaluation tested prototypes with users to learn more about their mental models and identify any usabilty issues. This was the first prototype flow:

Testing convinced the team to make big changes:

Visual Design

Once we had the core invite experience dialed in we moved on to visual design of the waiting area and wayfinding.

  1. Visual design started with a broad spectrum of divergent ideas. We began to read-in more designers to the project at this point.

  1. We focused on layouts that had the right balance of social and content priority.

  1. Engineering leads had been informed of the program but now was the point we dug deep with Client Engineers to identify expensive UI that couldn't be rendered or needed custom components.

  1. Finally, we aligned to the existing visual style as much as possible so the feature would feel native and intentional.

Motion Design

Motion design added new depth and usability to the gathering space. The mobile design had to meet these criteria:

The motion design for TV devices was slightly more complex than mobile because it had to communicate more information with less focus:


The core strategy was still "Group on mobile, Watch on TV" but we had a hypothesis that the experience needed a form of real-time interaction to connect people. Reactions were already popular on other products and felt like a natural fit.

We did another round of divergent ideation with illustrations. It was super fun to invite 7 illustrators from across Product, Content, and Marketing design to participate. These are just some of the ideas they came up with.

We ran the reactions through a couple of rounds of usability and preference testing. We needed the final set to meet a few requirements:


Double Diamond

Developer Collaboration

A key part of our strategy for this feature was our TV support. Disney's patented technology worked across devices which meant people could group on mobile and watch on TV. We know that subscribers who stream on TV screens more have a significantly higher AARPU.

We designed a wayfinding system to help hosts and guests navigate to their Groupwatch on TV after they received an invite on their phone.


Our client and services engineers had reservations about this design. They were concerned that loading the GroupWatch™ session state, loading user data, and rendering this module in the middle of the homepage would create a slow experience for the majority of non-group users. Design and engineering negotiated a few ideas that would ensure a quick load time with sufficient information about the session.


Marketing Collaboration

Leading up to the launch of the feature I was able to collaborate with the Marketing Design team on materials in and out of the product to introduce the feature. Unconstrained by the design system and device technical constraints, they were able to elevate the look of GroupWatch and communicate the value proposition much more effectively.

Public Reception

The feature was well covered in the tech and media press. Many outlets called out the unique value of the feature during the Covid Pandemic.

Fan reception was positive as well although people attempting to watch across different international regions experienced issues with different cuts of films being incompatible.

In Market Performance

GroupWatch found traction quickly with a solid cohort of subscribers. Over time the size of groups increased as hosts invited more guests to their sessions. We saw spikes with each international expansion, and from cross-promotion with content releases.