Not long after rolling out a long-awaited feature (offline downloads), Hulu is today announcing a slew of improvements to the experience of actually using Hulu. First up, it’s changing the method by which subscribers give feedback on the service’s recommendations. Hulu is introducing a like and dislike system, letting you give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down to individual movies and TV shows that the algorithm suggests.
Disliking a piece of content will prevent it from being recommended again. This replaces the “stop showing this” option that Hulu already had. Liking something tells Hulu that you want to see similar shows and movies surfaced by the app. The like and dislike system is rolling out today on the web and Amazon Fire TV devices, Xbox One, the Nintendo Switch, select LG / Samsung / Android TVs, Vizio SmartCast, and Chromecast. Hulu says other devices are coming soon, with iOS, Android, and Roku being the most obvious platforms missing on day one.
Hulu is also working to make its home screen feel more personalized and relevant and less like a random mix of popular shows with a few of your favorites thrown in. Over the coming weeks and months, Hulu says it will be “displaying the most relevant collections for you and ordering them based on your watch preferences.” If you never watch kids content, for instance, all of those collections will drop way lower in the home feed.
The company is also reminding customers that humans are often behind some of the picks they see throughout the app. It’s not all about algorithms. “Recommendations and human curation work hand in hand at Hulu to deliver just the right mix of content for our viewers - personalized recommendations, curated collections, and everything in between,” Jason Wong, Hulu’s director of product management, wrote in a blog post. In comments provided to The Verge, Wong expanded on that further.
At Hulu, we believe the best search and discovery experience is built on three key tentpoles - our editors that find and highlight content that is relevant and timely, our recommendation algorithms that work to understand what our viewers like, and our features that enable us to listen to our viewers and give them more control over what they see. This combination is what makes discovery on Hulu unique, and ensures that there’s human input from both sides of the equation — from our team at Hulu and our viewers at home.
Search is also getting smarter: Hulu says it’ll now respond better to common misspellings or abbreviations (like “HIMYM” for How I Met Your Mother). Some of these improvements are coming in the short term, and others will roll out over the next few months.
Earlier this month, Hulu improved the legibility of its home screen by toning down the bright backgrounds and text opacity to make everything easier to navigate. It’s a step that should’ve been taken earlier, but it’s still good to see. All of these changes together make it clear that Hulu — which is now a critical part of Disney’s streaming strategy — is putting a huge emphasis on the user experience. In November, Hulu (the ad-supported basic tier) will become part of Disney’s appealing trio bundle of Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu for a single price of $12.99 per month.