A Complete Guide to What’s New on Hulu

Hulu published a blog post today detailing a number of features and updates that it has added to its player and home page. While users can forget about watching Hulu on the iPad — at least for now — on the PC they will now get a bigger, sleeker video player that can adapt to changes in network conditions, as well as personalized video recommendations and more relevant ads.

Here’s a rundown of new features which are now live:

A bigger, chromeless player with integrated controls

Since size matters, Hulu has increased the size of its player by 25 percent, running at a native resolution of 720×404. That allows viewers to get the full experience of the 480p video, which had previously been scaled down. The player is now chromeless, so that the controls and timeline don’t interfere with the viewing experience, unless they are moused over. Hulu has also shifted some of the controls around, moving the full-screen button to the lower-right of the player and making its location consistent on full-screen, pop-out and embedded versions of the player. The site has renamed its continuous play feature “autoplay,” and moved those controls to the right side of the player, along with those for embedding or sharing videos. Finally, when a video encounters end credits, the video window will shrink to make room for video recommendations, much in the same way that TV credits are shrunken to make room for promotional materials.

Adaptive bitrate streaming

While the player has settings that will allow users to stream at a fixed resolution — at either 480p, 360p or 288p — it also offers adaptive bitrate technology, which once selected ensures that the player gets the highest-quality feed available at any given time. In that way, the video quality won’t degrade if there’s a bottleneck in the local network conditions.

A new home page, with personalized recommendations

In a new update to the home page, Hulu will begin recommending shows to users that are signed in. Those recommendations will be based on past viewing habits, so if you’re not logged in, Hulu will showcase a list of featured shows and movies. In addition to the new recommendations, users will also be able to customize their home pages through the dropdown header, and those preferences will be saved for the next time they log in.

More relevant ads

To improve the ads that viewers see, Hulu is rolling out its Ad Tailor, which is designed to provide more relevant and personalized ads to its viewers. The ad tailor enables users to provide immediate feedback on the ads they see, with a button in the upper right of every video ad that asks, “Was this ad relevant to you?” Buttons for “yes” and “no” replace the old “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” buttons that used to run. Hulu’s Ad Tailor also will occasionally serve up option surveys in place of its ads, which could also help the video site gain more anonymous data with which to target its ads. As VP of product Eugene Wei writes in the blog post, “We can’t alter our advertisers’ creative, but we can control which ads we show you. We’ll use your feedback to adjust which ads we show you in the future.”

Ad volume normalization

Just as some cable TV channels have problems with ads blaring their volume higher than the programming they’re running against, so did Hulu. The new ad normalization feature will handle volume adjustments on the fly, analyzing the audio level of the content and adjusting the ad volume to match it.

Closed captioning controls

Hulu has added new options for how captions are displayed, allowing viewers to choose between the original white text or yellow text on a transparent background. There’s also the option for white text on a solid black background to improve visibility.

Seek preview and heat map

When hovering over the new player timeline, users will now be able to see a preview thumbnail of what’s happening at that moment in the video, allowing them to more easily find what they want to watch. The new player also has an optional heat map, which allows viewers to find particular moments of interest within a full episode or full-length movie. The heat map, which is available from the dropdown pane of the player, indicates how popular different sections of a video are among Hulu viewers.

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