With millions of Americans still under quarantine orders, Hulu is introducing a way for subscribers to sit together on the couch — virtually — to stream TV shows and movies at the same time.
Starting May 28, Hulu is beginning to test Watch Party, its first social feature that will let viewers watch titles together and chat in groups of up to eight people. The feature is currently available only on hulu.com for a select number of titles.
The Hulu Watch Party also seems to be designed to drive upgrades to the $11.99 monthly package with no ads: The feature is available only to those who have the pricier subscription VOD tier.
Users who have access to the test can launch the experience through the “Watch Party” icon on the Details pages of shows and movies from the service’s library. They will then be given a link to invite their family and friends, who must also subscribe to the Hulu no-ads plan. According to Hulu, participants in a Watch Party must be 18 or older to either start or join a co-viewing session.
While watching, viewers can communicate with each other in a chat window on the right-hand side. Users also have the ability to control their own playback without affecting the rest of the Watch Party: If you hit pause (or fall behind because of a poor internet connection), you can rejoin the rest of the party by hitting the “click to catch up” button in the chat window.
A Hulu rep said the Watch Party feature was built in-house by the company’s product team and doesn’t require a browser plug-in. To see which TV shows and movies are available, customers can look for a “Watch Party” icon on the details page in the Hulu guide.
The “watch together” concept isn’t new: Startup Scener offers a similar experience for Netflix and HBO, and there’s also a browser plug-in called Netflix Party (which is unaffiliated with Netflix).
Separately, Hulu this month began rolling out a new user interface, starting with Roku and Apple TV, designed to make finding new content easier.
Hulu is now fully controlled by Disney, which offers the service in discounted bundle with Disney Plus and ESPN Plus. As of March 28, Hulu had 32.1 million total subscribers (3.3 million on its Live + SVOD tiers), up 27% year over year, according to Disney.
Hulu released an animation showing what the Watch Party feature looks like: