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Chromecast adds Showtime Anytime, Starz and new party games

A few key TV apps are adding support for the Chromecast TV dongle, including Showtime Anytime and Starz, as well as casual games like Wheel of Fortune and Just Dance Now.

Daniel Terdiman/CNET

Chromecast is closing the "app gap" with Roku and Apple TV.

Today Google announced a key update that allows a major app to work with the $35 streaming dongle: Showtime Anytime. The video streaming app is Showtime's version of HBO Go, delivering to movies and original series like "Homeland" and "The Affair." (Editor's note: Showtime is owned by CBS. CNET is published by CBS Interactive, a unit of CBS.)

A similar app, Starz Play, also added Chromecast support today. Like HBO Go, both require an active subscription to Showtime and/or Starz and authentication via your cable or satellite provider. Now you have another reason to "borrow" your parents' Comcast password.

Showtime Anytime has been available on Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV for a while, but Starz Play is not available on any of those three platforms yet (nor can it be accessed via AirPlay, according to the PDF FAQ).

Google's announcement also touted a few new "party" games adding support for Chromecast. They include Wheel of Fortune, Just Dance Now, Emoji Party, Big Web Quiz, Simon Swipe, Connect Four Quads and Hasbro's Monopoly Dash. All are said to facilitate family fun on the TV screen. It's worth noting that Chromecast already has more than 50 game titles on its official support page, which now features category tabs (yay!).

All Chromecast-compatible apps work via Google's Cast technology, which allows content from your phone or tablet app to appear on the big screen. The process works well, but since it requires a phone it's less convenient than using a "native" app on a traditional streaming box. Google's new Nexus Player and Android TV operating system also support Cast technology, and select apps can be Cast to other devices.

I took a few moments to check out how Starz works via Chromecast, and had no complaints; the movie "American Hustle" and the original series "Survivor's Remorse" looked as good as I expected. The app update for Showtime that enabled Chromecast support hadn't yet appeared by press time, so I didn't test it.

The game Emoji Party playing on a big screen via Chromecast. David Katzmaier/CNET

The same goes for most of the game apps Google mentions, although I was able to test a couple. Emoji Party for Chromecast uses emojis as hints for trivia like movie titles (above) and allowed myself and a co-worker to compete head-to-head on our phones. Just Dance Now made me ape the movements of a dancer on-screen and tracked my accuracy via the phone's accelerometer.

I found both games fun and well-executed for what they were in my brief play time, and both made good use of the screen and phones in concert.

More serious app gamers (if they exist) would probably gravitate toward devices such as the Fire TV or Nexus Player , but the addition of "party" game apps just adds to Chromecast's appeal as an innovative, inexpensive, living-room entertainment platform.