People need alternate ways to connect while social distancing, and online viewing parties have become a popular choice. Hulu is dipping its toes in the water by testing its new Watch Party feature, but there are a few limitations. First, it only works via desktop web browser, so you can’t host or join a party if you’re watching on your smart TV’s Hulu app, a streaming dongle or a mobile device. Second, everyone in the party must be subscribed to the service’s No Ads tier.
To start, users can click the Watch Party icon on the details page of a show or movie. A link will be generated and the leader can send it to up to seven people who want to join (for a total of eight in the group). Members can use the built-in chat feature to comment and critique, and each user can watch at their own pace. The “Click to Catch Up” button will fast-forward them back to where the rest of the party is, if they fall too far behind. Hulu says Watch Party works with thousands of its TV shows and movies. Users can see if a title is compatible by looking for a Watch Party icon on each item’s details page.
While Watch Party is a welcome addition, it would be nice to be able to join a session via the official app -- even if that means having to cast the show or movie from a phone or tablet. Plus, it seems doubtful that a group of friends will all have access to a No Ads subscription. Hopefully this new feature works well and Hulu eventually expands upon it.