Tubi’s library of streaming content is huge. And kind of impenetrable. You can watch its many always-on channels or watch something the service’s homescreen recommends, but more likely than not, you’re going to spend too much of your TV-watching time scrolling the same endless rows of posters until your eyes cross. Just like every other streaming service.
Or maybe, Tubi thinks, ChatGPT can help you find what you’re looking for a little faster. Tubi is launching a feature called Rabbit AI that lets you ask for content any way you can think of. Search for “movies like Hidden Figures,” and you’ll get up to 20 recommendations; search “horror movies about high school,” and Rabbit AI will hopefully find what you’re looking for.
This isn’t a particularly new idea — some of ChatGPT’s most useful plug-ins are ones like What to Watch and TMDB that tap into movie and show databases to help you get recommendations — but Tubi is among the first to build AI-powered search right into its platform. It’ll even suggest prompts to get users started who might not know what they’re looking for. ChatGPT does have an occasional tendency to hallucinate and invent movies that don’t exist, but in this case Tubi is able to constrain the data to only the relevant content. And if it does make something up, it’ll be pretty obvious pretty fast.
The fact that searches can be conversational also makes them unusually powerful, says Blake Bassett, Tubi’s senior director of product. Instead of searching for a title, actor, or genre, you can start broad and figure things out over time. “I’ve got a five-year-old who loves ancient Egypt,” Bassett says, so naturally, he’d search for shows about Egypt. “It was a bunch of documentaries. So I’m like, ‘what about kids content or cartoons?’” That came back with a bunch of stuff he didn’t recognize. “So I say, ‘I’m looking for something from a big studio or that is more professional,’” at which point the Bassetts evidently found something good to watch.
Getting all this data about what people search for and what they end up watching also helps Tubi figure out more ways to categorize and filter its own library. “People are finding new ways to describe content through these prompts,” Bassett says, “and we can label the content and enrich our data in the backend ... and surface that to customers.” Ultimately, he thinks even users who don’t use Rabbit AI might notice Tubi’s recommendations becoming better and more personalized.
Bassett says there are basically three types of viewers. The first knows exactly what they’re looking for, and keyword search works fine. The second has a vague idea: they want a cooking show or a stoner comedy but don’t have a specific plan in mind. “The third is like, ‘I’m bored, I don’t care, I don’t want to expend any mental energy on finding something,’” Bassett says. Rabbit AI is going to be ideal for the second group and potentially great for the third if Tubi can tell you what you want to watch before you even know yourself.
Rabbit AI is rolling out as a beta test in Tubi’s app now to about two-thirds of the platform’s users. If you’re a paying ChatGPT customer, you can also get it as a plug-in. Bassett says he’s looking to see if people actually use the search and how long it takes to get people to something they actually want to watch. If it works, if AI can help solve the “scroll so long you eventually just give up and look at your phone” problem, it might be the best discovery engine the streaming world has ever found.