Hulu Finally Introduces a Fix for Its Garbage Recommendation System

Image: Hulu

Your recommended content is about to get a whole lot better.

The company is introducing a new feature to improve its suggestions algorithm by rolling out Like and Dislike buttons, a feature Netflix introduced back in 2017 as part of its user curation system. In a Wednesday blog post announcing the update, the company’s director of product management Jason Wong said that the tool is part of a larger rollout of updates over the next few months that will improve user search and discovery within the platform.

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Like and Dislike buttons will work much as they do on Netflix. Liking a film or series will surface similar titles moving forward and disliking content will scrub it from your feed. But Like and Dislike buttons aren’t the only tools that the company uses to surface content. Wong wrote that Hulu’s curation approach is “a combination of human curation, empowering our viewers, and algorithms that round out the personalized experiences we deliver to Hulu subscribers.”

Image: Hulu

Still, the Like and Dislike function is a welcome improvement over the site’s Stop Suggesting function—which the company says will remain on some devices for the time being—in that users aren’t so much batting away content they definitely do not want to watch so much as they can highlight what they do. And by putting more control in users’ hands to cherry-pick their tastes, the overall experience will no doubt be better for it. (God knows Hulu could use improvement on this front.)

In addition to the Like and Dislike buttons, Wong also said that in the coming months, the site’s search functionality will get an overhaul to better track misspellings and abbreviations of titles, such as if a user types “HIMYM” instead of “How I Met Your Mother.” Wong said Hulu will also introduce updates to its recommendation system to “build collections tied to what you watched in the past and refine suggestions for content that’s Up Next.”

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And lastly, Wong said Hulu will improve the Home screen to surface content higher or lower in its recommendations based on user watch preferences, meaning you’re less likely to see random kids shows or reality TV pop up at the top of your feed if that’s never content you care to watch.

Wong said the changes follow previous curation updates that included consideration for when users watch specific content and on which devices. They also arrive just ahead of the launch of Disney+, which will offer a $13 bundle at launch that includes ESPN+ ad-supported Hulu—meaning Hulu has plenty of incentive for ensuring it’s product is in good shape as Disney+ muscles its way into the streaming fray to compete against the likes of Apple TV+ and longtime streaming giant Netflix for subscribers.

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Wong said the Like and Dislike function is rolling out this week on Hulu.com, Amazon Fire TV devices, XboxOne, Nintendo Switch, select LG, Samsung, and Android TVs, VIZIO SmartCast TVs, and Chromecast, with compatibility on other devices “coming soon.”

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