TECHNOLOGY

NBA, Apple Just Leveled Up League Pass Watch Parties

Shared viewing lag may soon be a thing of the past thanks to what the NBA and Apple are bringing to FaceTime and SharePlay

We’ve all dealt with this issue before.

You’re on the phone or a video call with a friend and you’re both watching a sporting event when an amazing play happens. One person screams, yells, or curses at a big play while the other is either silent or screaming upset because their stream is behind and they don’t yet know what’s happened.

The NBA and Apple have now given us a tech-driven solution to this age-old problem.

Apple’s iOS 15.1 allows for SharePlay, giving fans new ways to connect to family and friends while on FaceTime. Multiple users can now watch live and archived games and highlights together on League Pass with synced audio and video so everyone sees the action at the same time, with the ability to pause, rewind and enjoy.  For fans without League Pass, single game, 10-minute pass, and single-quarter options are available for purchase.

“We are excited to give fans another way to enjoy live games together through Apple’s SharePlay feature within the NBA app,” said Chad Evans, the NBA’s senior vice president of product and platform. “This is the latest in a series of enhancements we’ve made to League Pass to create a more interactive and personalized viewing experience.” 

How SharePlay Works on NBA League Pass

Last week, Apple and the NBA provided a demo on background to show FaceTime’s new features and how they enhance the shared NBA viewing experience.

There wasn’t a live NBA game at the time, so the five people on the group FaceTime played the opening week double-overtime classic between the Knicks and Celtics as an example. A rep from Apple shared her screen with the rest of the group as we watched ESPN’s Mike Breen intro the action. We all had shared playback control, where anyone could pause or fast-forward the content as well as smart volume.

Voice isolation blocks out ambient noise and wide spectrum amplifies that same noise if you want it. Spatial audio makes people’s voices sound like they’re coming from the direction in which they’re positioned on the screen, allowing users to hear everyone even if they’re talking over each other. And while someone on your FaceTime is speaking, the volume on the game’s broadcast automatically lowered.

If you swiped up on your home screen and went to a third-party app like Twitter, the game still appeared minimized in the top right-hand corner and remained in sync for the group. If you wanted to see the game and your friends on FaceTime in either vertical or horizontal, you could do that, too. 

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If you wanted to watch the game while off-camera and mic with some extra focus and intensity, that’s done while staying in sync. And as part of the FaceTime interface on iOS 15.1, you can tap a messages function to display a thread with everyone in your group so you can live chat while watching the game together with text, photos, memes, tweets, and links to enhance the shared experience.

Other new 15.1 features include portrait mode, which gives you the option to blur your background and put the focus on your face, grid view in FaceTime groups, and the ability to send links to groups and calendar invites.

For users without an Apple device , the NBA provides a League Pass watch party option through NBA.com on a computer. But in the FaceTime iOS 15.1 version, Apple now silences notifications if you’re the one sharing your screen to your friends, so they don’t see any of your private messages or alerts — a problem we’ve all experienced in the past.

Apple’s API for third-party developers like the NBA allows companies to bring their own experiences to SharePlay, with Paramount+ and Showtime already live and more options along the way like Disney+, Hulu, ESPN, HBO Max, and Twitch. But if you’re an NBA fan, the concept of shared viewing lag can finally be a thing of the past.