It shouldn’t have taken a global pandemic and subsequent quarantine to inspire a way to easily watch the same show at the same time with our friends and family remotely, but it did. Hulu is now the first major streaming service to offer a group chat feature on its platform so you can watch the same show at the same time with up to eight people while chatting. It’s not quite the same as three-way-calling your best friends, but we’ll take it.
If you have an ad-free Hulu subscription ($12 a month), Watch Party is available to you right now. If you don’t, you’re out of luck, and Hulu hasn’t said when or if it would roll it out for ad-supported subscribers. The new feature may be an extra incentive to get more people to upgrade to the more expensive plan. Watch Party is only available through via Hulu.com, which makes sense given that the chat function is a central part of the new feature.
Unlike Netflix Party and Scener, which are Chrome browser extensions, Hulu’s feature is part of the service itself. Navigate to a show’s page, find the episode you want to watch, and then click on the watch party icon at the bottom of the episode box. It’ll take you to another page with a link that you can share with other people to join. A few of us at Gizmodo tried it out with What We Do in The Shadows, a hilarious show about vampires (if you’re not familiar). If you are, you’ll get the pun.
Each person watching can control how far they advance or backtrack in any show or movie. Netflix Party syncs everyone up with the host automatically, which can sometimes cause buffer issues. But Hulu’s Watch Party lets you manually sync. It takes several seconds for the ‘out of sync’ button to appear at the top of the chat, but it doesn’t take nearly as long to actually sync back up with the host.
Because of the syncing difference between the two with Netflix Party, it’s hard to watch a show like Bandersnatch. The show will loop the same 2-second bit over and over again if anyone clicks on a choice. Hulu doesn’t have any shows that allows users to choose what path they want the story to take, but if it did, the manual sync feature could allow every user to watch the same show while exploring different paths without any weird looping effects.
Unfortunately, like Netflix Party, Hulu won’t let you switch to another TV episode or movie without ending your current Watch Party first—annoying at best if you want to binge watch 20-minute Daria episodes. I’m not sure why Hulu hasn’t implemented this, but it sure would be a hell of a lot more convenient to automatically roll into the next episode.
Also note that if you use a VPN, you’ll need to turn it off before you can join or host a Watch Party.
Plex rolled out its own Watch Together feature today, too. I haven’t tried it out yet, but you can kick back on your couch and text with the people in your watch group instead of having to sit at your computer.