Hulu Acquires The VGP to Improve Recommendation Options

Hulu just bought the assets of The Video Genome Project (The VGP), whose technology automatically aggregates metadata around video content, classifies it into subgenres and then uses the data to connect titles. The VGP makes connections beyond obvious criteria such as genre, director or cast. Hulu says a “small team” from The VGP will join the company, and, with this technology, Hulu will be able to offer classifications similar to Netflix’s more granular offerings, such as “Action Sci-Fi & Fantasy Based on Books.”

TechCrunch says that The VGP technology is the same as Netflix’s, which “doesn’t use these lists of subgenres directly on its home screen, but rather leverages its understanding of how content is classified to make better recommendations that are personalized to its users.”

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By purchasing The VGP, Hulu won’t have to invest in developing its own database but instead can merge the The VGP’s with its own recommendation engine. Noting how “Empire” and “Pretty Little Liars” are both “shows that use music to drive the central plot,” TechCrunch says that if two shows matched in enough “hidden categories” and were combined with “other signals from the recommendation engine,” the result could “help to point people to new content they would have otherwise overlooked.”

The new technology will go live in Q1 2017, says Hulu, when the company debuts its live TV streaming service. Post-launch, Hulu, with the help of The VGP, plans to “ingest news feeds of current events and then connect the theme (political upheaval perhaps?) to content from its on-demand library of movies and TV shows.”

“Personalization has been big change for us as we think about putting the user first in the center of their entertainment experience,” said Hulu head of experience Ben Smith. “There are thousands of things to watch on Hulu, but the more things you have, the harder it gets to choose. That’s the paradox of choice.”