Hulu is launching a Watch Party feature so groups can watch together while social distancing

While some areas around the globe are starting to relax some social distancing guidelines, some folks might not be ready to hang out in person. That’s where virtual watch parties come in.

And now Hulu is the first of the major streaming services to actually offer a Watch Party feature for those who want to check out a movie or show with friends and family, but aren’t quite ready to do that sitting right next to them. The Watch Party feature is rolling out beginning today, but availability will be limited right out of the gate (perĀ The Verge).

According to Hulu, “thousands of movies and shows” are supported by the new Watch Party feature, so it sounds like folks will have plenty to choose from. When a Watch Party starts, the group will be able to interact with one another in an integrated chat room that sits off to the right of whatever the group is watching. Participants will be able to pause playback on their own device if needed, and when they return they can choose the “click to catch up” button to jump ahead to where the group is when they return.

The new Watch Party feature is only available for Hulu customers that are paying for the pricier ad-free tier of the streaming service, and it’s only available on the web for now. For the users who have access to the feature there will be a new “Watch Party” icon they can click. That will generate a link they can send to those they want to join the fun.

Watch parties are a great way to let customers watch content together in real-time while practicing social distancing measures during the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic. Hulu is the first major streamer to offer its own built-in option, but there are third-party services that offer the same experience for streaming options like Netflix and YouTube, and Amazon technically supports a watch party feature thanks to Twitch.

Still, it feels like only a matter of time before these watch party features start to become the norm for the other major services in the near future.

In related Hulu news, the company just announced a major redesign for its UI for the Apple TV to help subscribers discover new content.