Hulu Is Testing An Ad-Free 'Watch Party' Function For All Your Quarantine Viewing Needs

You can soon watch your favorite shows or movies without ads — but only if you have friends. The streaming platform is testing out a Hulu Watch Party feature, allowing viewers to watch titles on the streaming platform together and chat in groups of up to eight people or more. And best yet, the feature will get rid of Hulu's most defining (and annoying) quirk: its ads.

Variety reports that Hulu is catering to all the friends who are socially distancing amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic with a new Hulu Watch Party feature, the first social feature for the streaming service. The Watch Party feature, which Hulu is beginning to test starting today, will allow viewers to watch TV shows or movies together and interact in a chatroom of up to eight people.

Here's how it works: Hulu users with access to the test will see a Watch Party icon on the Details pages of shows and movies that are eligible for the feature. By clicking on the icon, they will get a link to invite family and friends to join. However, these family and friends must be subscribed to the Hulu no-ads plan, and must be 18 or older to either start or join a co-viewing session.

While watching, viewers can communicate in the chat window on the righthand side. Viewers also have the ability to control their own playback without impacting the group. And anyone who falls behind (or just has a poor internet connection) can rejoin the party by hitting a button in the chat window marked "click to catch up."

Only a select number of titles will have the Watch Party feature — though Hulu says it will be in the "thousands." The feature will also work on PC and Mac computers via Hulu-compatible browsers, with no plug-in or extension required.

But there are a lot of caveats to this feature that make it a bummer — it seems like it will only be offered to those subscribed to the $11.99 ad-free monthly package. While Hulu seems to be rolling out this feature to encourage people to subscribe to the higher-tier package, it feels like the least they could do during lockdown is offer this one for the rest of us lower-tier masses. Still Hulu is the first major streaming platform to actually work in a co-viewing experience into its UX — the Netflix Party plug-in (which Hulu Watch Party is clearly modeled off of) is unaffiliated with Netflix, while the Startup Scener has Netflix and HBO covered.