Hulu tests its co-viewing feature ‘Watch Party’ with ad-supported viewers

Hulu was one of the first major streaming services to introduce a “co-viewing” feature that allows friends and family to watch Hulu content together from different locations. The feature, Hulu Watch Party, was initially only available for subscribers on the the ad-free tier of Hulu’s streaming service. Now, the company is making Watch Party available to ad-supported subscribers as well, but in a more limited capacity.

When Hulu Watch Party launched in May, it worked across thousands of movies and TV shows in Hulu’s on-demand streaming library. As Hulu explained at the time, if a show is available for co-viewing, it will indicate this with a “Watch Party” icon on the title’s Details page. Users can then provide the co-viewing link to those with whom they want to watch together. Currently, a Watch Party session supports up to eight people.

What makes Hulu’s implementation different from those seen on rival services is that viewers can control their own Watch Party experience. If someone wants to grab a snack or needs a bathroom break, for example, they can pause playback. But doing so doesn’t impact the group’s shared stream. Then, when they return, the viewer can either watch what they missed or tap a “Catch Up” button to get back in sync with the group.

Hulu says since the product debuted, viewers have used Watch Party to host movie nights and watch new series premieres. “Palm Springs,” “Parasite” and “Love, Victor” were among the top titles that were co-viewed to date.

Now, Hulu wants to bring the feature to ad-supported viewers.

Image Credits: Hulu

The company is testing co-watching on “Pen15,” whose season 2 premieres on Friday, September 18.

Over the next 10 days, Hulu subscribers on both the ad-supported and ad-free plans will be able to join Watch Parties for this particular program.

Hulu is also trying out a branded experience within Watch Party for this particular test.

In a nod to the show, the Watch Party interface will be designed to resemble a classic instant messenger chat room, and will include screen names taken from the series. This design will only display when Watch Party is used to stream “Pen15,” not other shows. It’s an interesting example of how Watch Party could help build out more of a fan community around a show by theming the chat interface in a unique way for viewers.

Users today have to be 18 and older to use Watch Party, Hulu says. Support for co-viewing of “Pen15” across Hulu’s tiers is live as of Wednesday and will continue for 10 days from that date.

The company is now one of several to either officially support co-viewing or at least endorse it.

Amazon’s Twitch launched Watch Parties for Amazon Prime Video following a built-in feature on Prime Video itself. Plex added Watch Together in May, and HBO teamed up with Scener for co-viewing experiences. Instagram in March rolled out co-watching features, while Watch Party debuted co-watching of events in May. More recently, Instagram Messenger and Messenger Rooms added the ability to co-view Facebook Watch content.