Hulu Acquires Recommendation Startup Video Genome Project

Hulu's Upfront Presentation on April 30, 2014 in New York City-Getty- H 2016
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Hulu

CEO Mike Hopkins has laid out a vision for Hulu's forthcoming live TV service that includes surfacing relevant content to subscribers in a more personalized way.

Hulu is super-charging its TV and movie recommendations. 

The streamer announced Tuesday that it has acquired data startup the Video Genome Project to create a more powerful tool to surface the right content to the right user. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. 

Three-year-old Video Genome Project has a database of information for more than 8 million pieces of video content and has assigned categories for each title, called "genes," that it uses to surface recommendations for, say, a good Sunday afternoon TV show or a movie for automotive enthusiasts. It is similar to the hundreds of genres that Netflix uses to classify its library. 

Hulu will integrate Video Genome Project's technology with its own recommendation engine to boost the discovery of new content within both live and on-demand viewing environments. 

"The future of television is not just going to be about where and how you watch, it's going to be about how personal your viewing experience can be," said Hulu's head of experience, Ben Smith. "With this strategic acquisition of the VGP’s technology, we’re gaining important data and personalization capabilities that will allow us to serve our users even better as we expand into live programming."

Added Video Genome Project CEO Xavier Kochhar: "Given its forward-thinking leadership and true emphasis on content discovery, which we saw in the personal user experience they are building, Hulu really was the obvious choice for us to realize The VGP’s vision.”

The purchase of the Santa Monica-based Video Genome Project comes as Hulu readies its forthcoming live TV service, for which it has already struck content licensing deals with Time Warner, Fox and Disney. When Hulu first announced the service in May, CEO Mike Hopkins laid out a vision for that included personalized recommendations tailored to what individual viewers want to watch, when they want to watch it. "It's going to be a transformative thing for Hulu and our customers," he told The Hollywood Reporter at the time. 

To that end, Hulu has been adding features over the last year to built up its recommendation tools, including a watchlist feature, and says that 75 percent of all viewing on its platform is driven by recommended programming. Video Genome Project will further those efforts. Hulu plans to fully incorporate its technology into its recommendation system by the first quarter of 2017.