Chill.com launched a major update to its site Tuesday that included new content from Hulu, bringing the latest episodes of popular shows like House, Castle and Dancing with the Stars to the social video chat site. Users can then watch these shows together in a synchronous fashion and chat in groups and also through one-to-one messaging.
Chill’s take on Hulu’s content comes with an interesting twist: Chill uses a so-called social appointment TV schedule to encourage as many people as possible to tune in at the same time. Episodes of individual shows are scheduled to repeat every three hours and can’t be viewed on Chill.com outside of that schedule. Shows are scheduled to be featured on Chill the day they debut on Hulu.
During a phone conversation Tuesday, Chill founder Brian Norgard told me the site will eventually add more ways to access archived content from Hulu as well, with the end goal being to have all of Hulu.com on the site — but for now, the focus is squarely on shows that are current and in season. “This is the true water cooler effect,” said Norgard.
The site also wants to make it easier for viewers to find new TV show episodes. Fans can subscribe to a particular show to get an email whenever a new episode pops up on Chill.
Chill has long been described as a sort of turntable.fm for video, and the site has certainly taken a few cues from Turntable’s crowdsourced real-time media curation approach. Chill users can still start their own rooms and watch YouTube clips and music videos together, and the site recently announced a partnership with Vevo. “We have had tremendous success with this product, but we didn’t want to be limited by it,” said Norgard.
A number of companies have experimented with real-time social interaction around video content before, including the kind of virtual viewing parties networks like Bravo have been doing as well as Google’s recent integration of YouTube into its Hangouts video chat. Norgard said Chill’s approach is a little different: It doesn’t just try to connect you with your social graph, but instead create social bonds with like-minded strangers.
He went on to say that Chill’s big bet was about a more interactive TV future, as opposed to one that brings online content to leanback platforms. “We are really building Chill for the lean-forward customer,” he told me.