A new Chrome extension lets you create commentary videos for Netflix shows in the style of Twitch or 'Mystery Science Theatre 3000'

Scener
  • Scener is a new Chrome extension that lets you make your own picture-in-picture commentary videos for TV shows and movies on streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.
  • Scener’s founders were inspired by services like Twitch and YouTube, and the lack of a communal experience when binge-watching shows on Netflix.
  • Scener plans to expand to different streaming services using Chrome’s API.

If you’ve ever wanted to make your own version of “Mystery Science Theatre 3000” – the iconic show that laid an audio track of ruthless ribbing over bad sci-fi movies – there’s a new Chrome extension that makes it easy to do that (and more).

On Wednesday, an extension called Scener launched on Chrome. Scener lets you create picture-in-picture commentary videos that are synchronised to TV shows and movies on streaming platforms. At launch, the extension works with Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube, but the company is looking to add others like HBO Now.

Prior to launch, Scener cofounders Daniel Strickland and Joe Braidwood shared a demo of the platform with Business Insider, and walked us through its origins. The pair said the idea came from two big sources of inspiration: the success of platforms like gaming-focused Twitch and YouTube in spurring commentary videos, and the disconnect the founders felt from other viewers in the age of Netflix binge-watching. In our on-demand TV universe, we don’t really get experiences like the fun Twitter chatter around a major live sporting event, or even an award show, Braidwood said.

The concept of Scener is easy enough to grasp: You use your webcam to film a PiP track that’s synced to the timeline of the movie or show. There are nifty features like being able to pause the source video but continue recording your video (if you want to get lots of information in before a big scene), and the ability for people to leave text comments that display on a sidebar next to the video (similar to SoundCloud’s commenting platform).

But the main question you probably have is how the Scener team was able to build this without massive copyright infringement. To view any Scener video, you have to be logged into whatever service it was recorded on top of, be it Netflix or Hulu. But once that’s done, Scener’s tech layers on top of the Chrome API. That means that Netflix can’t suddenly pull support one day if it decides to build its own tool like this, the founders said.

To help seed the service at launch, Scener worked with 200 creators to have 600 reaction videos ready to go. The founders mentioned Filup Molina, a YouTuber whose New Rockstars channel has over 1.5 million followers, who did videos for Scener where he “unpacks fan theories behind Breaking Bad.” But the Scener videos aren’t all about fan theories. They can run the gamut, from people screaming along to horror movies, to comedy, to special-effects experts weighing in on how your favourite scenes were created. Whether they find an audience will be the key.

In the demo, the interface was slick, but the success of Scener will hinge on whether it can attract creators to actually make videos for it, and whether they can bring fans in. One big question on that front is money. Scener can’t layer advertising on top of a platform like Netflix, but the founders mentioned other monetisation avenues like tip jars for creators, and potential marketing contracts with movie and TV studios.

The founders are also looking to add more features, they said. For instance, they said that they had done prototypes of more than one webcam participating in a commentary video at once, and having the service work on smartphones as well as Chrome.

If you want to check out the first iteration, and poke around with the discovery tools, head over to the Scener website. You don’t have to create an account to browse.

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