The Seattle-based company has also has added filmmaker and producer J.J. Abrams as an investor and member of its advisory board. Tinder founder and investor Sean Rad and former WME music chief Marc Geiger have also invested in Scener and joined as advisors. Richard Wolpert, a longtime tech investor and entrepreneur, has come aboard as executive chairman. Rob Glaser’s RealNetworks was the original incubator of Scener, which was founded in 2018.
Daniel Strickland, who founded Scener and was its original CEO and CTO, will continue as CTO.
The overall streaming explosion has boosted Scener, whose Google Chrome extension lets groups collectively watch programming and interact as it plays. One of its splashiest projects was an activation last March with HBO Max for Zack Snyder’s Justice League, which featured exclusive content.
Some companies have opted to build social viewing into their services, as Disney did with GroupWatch on Disney+ (though the service is also available via Scener). But the streaming world is vast, and the belief at Scener is that that its cultivation of community and the strength of its user experience will be compelling enough to win a large and loyal fan base. The company says through 2021, millions of unique users took part in more than 1 billion minutes of viewing across more than 7 million individual events on its platform. Scener has nearly 3 million unique users and is seeing 20 million to 30 million viewer minutes per week. Video and text chats are supported by Agora.io engagement technology.
Baron said streaming has reached an inflection point, and has a major opportunity with the rise of social media. “Consumers are now demanding both simplicity and social connection in their viewing experiences,” he said in the announcement of his hiring. “Imagine having a service in the cloud that provides access to all of your streaming entertainment options, is natively social and is portable across all devices, all without an additional hardware device or dongle – this is the future of social viewing and content discovery, and an incredibly exciting time to join the team.”
In an interview with Deadline, Baron said his primary goal will be to help Scener achieve greater scale and add to its staff of just eight employees. A Series A funding round is in the company’s sights for 2022, along with the launch of a mobile app to enable viewers to watch on the big screen as they engage socially via their smart phone.
Deals with additional partners are also on the horizon. Scener currently supports Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, Prime Video, HBO Max, YouTube, Funimation, Showtime, Vimeo, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, Shudder and Hotstar.
“Of course, watching films and series while alone can be wonderful. But there is nothing more fun, memorable or moving than the communal viewing experience,” Abrams said. “Scener allows viewers to connect on a deeper level with the stories they’re watching, with each other, and with the storytellers and creators they care about. I very much look forward to hosting a Scener watch party soon!”
At Hulu, Baron played a key role in managing Hulu’s many content partnerships and helped build out Hulu + Live TV. Before Hulu, he was VP of digital at Fox and also worked at Paramount Digital Entertainment and Microsoft. For 27 years, he has taught classes at USC about technology’s impact on media and technology.