Hulu is launching a Watch Party feature that will allow subscribers to simultaneously watch a show or movie while hanging out in a group chat room.
Viewing groups have grown increasingly popular over the past few months as friends and family want to connect with people in many ways looking for new ways to connect. The services that enabled those viewing groups tend to be third-party contributions. There is no built-in way to stream Netflix or Disney Plus with a friend.
This makes Hulu the first major streaming service to truly tap into this growing trend. The feature is launching today, but its availability is limited for a limited time yet: it’s exclusive to web users, and they have to sign up for Hulu’s ad-free program. Hulu says that “thousands of movies and shows” support watching groups, suggesting that some titles may not work.
People with access to this feature will see the “View Party” icon on the details page of the supported articles. They will be given a link to send to people who want to watch it once. Those people must also use the Hulu website and sign up without ads.
The feature allows viewers to send each other messages in a shared group conversation from the side of the video they are watching. Users can control how they play when they need to pause, and the “click to find” button will allow them to turn to where the team is if they want to sync again.
An excellent addition to Hulu, one to consider that other streaming services will also want to offer. Viewing groups are a fun way for people to stay connected, and provide streaming services in another way to increase people’s consumption and dependency.
While Hulu was the first major service to offer a built-in feature, watch groups existed somehow before now. There are plenty of illegal services that offer this via Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and more. Other streaming services, such as HBO, have also begun partnering with companies to offer more of the group. And the BBC has started to build a tool that works across all of its platforms.
Some services already have advanced viewing platform features, albeit not for general purpose as provided by Hulu. Amazon, for example, allows its Prime shows to be viewed on Watch Parties, but has to be hosted by a Twitch distributor.