Vizio Bows ‘My Watchlist’ and Enhanced Recommendations Software

Vizio Oct. 25 launched “My Watchlist,” a new feature that allows viewers using Vizio smart televisions the ability to add their favorite TV shows and movies from different streaming services into one central location. Once a show or movie is added, a dedicated My Watchlist row will appear on the SmartCast Home Screen. When ready to begin viewing, the user simply selects the preferred title and is immediately launched into the service.

The software enables users to collect programming across myriad streaming services, including Apple TV+, Discovery+, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, Paramount+, Prime Video, Starz and Vizio’s WatchFree+, among others.

“The user is at the center of everything we do at Vizio, and we recognize that our users want the ability to easily find the content that matters most to them,” Steve Yum, VP of product management, said in a statement.

Vizio has also upgraded its content recommendation software, now based on the applications and genres the user engages with most. Users will see recommended titles for the streaming services accessed most — helping them get the most out of their SVOD services. For example, if a user views Apple TV+ frequently, they may see an Apple TV+ row and a list of show and movies recommendations for that service.

Also new to the SmartCast home screen is an additional recommendation type, featuring a row dedicated to the genres of content that users like most. For example, if “Crime” is the user’s favorite genre to watch, the user will see a row titled “True Crime” with a list of similar titles.

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Netflix Now Allows Content Fans to ‘Double Thumbs Up’ Their Approval

Netflix is now allowing fans of its content to more aggressively rate their approval with a “double thumbs up” button, in addition to the standard “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” options.

Beginning April 11, Netflix is introducing “double thumbs up,” an additional way for subscribers to let the service know what types of series and films they want to see more of. The “double thumbs up” option (there is no “double thumbs down” button) can be found next to the standard “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” buttons when streaming on the TV, Web, Android and iOS mobile devices.

“Our current [recommendation] buttons are a good way for you to tell us how you feel about a series or film, and in return, you get a profile that’s better personalized to your taste,” Christine Doig-Cardet, director of product innovation, wrote in a post. “However, we’ve learned over time that these feelings can go beyond a simple like or dislike. Providing an additional way to tell us when you’re really into something means a profile with recommendations that better reflect what you enjoy.”

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The subscription streaming video pioneer first introduced content recommendation software in 2000 for its legacy by-mail DVD rental business, and in 2006 offered a $1 million Netflix Prize to anyone or group that could improve the software’s accuracy by 10%. While a group of mathematicians did just that in 2007 to collect the money, Netflix reportedly never updated its algorithms as the company refocused its business model in 2008 on the SVOD market — which required completely different software.

Roku Greenlights New Content Recommendation Episodes

Roku Oct. 20 announced that “Roku Recommends” will return for a new slate of episodes starting this fall. “Roku Recommends” is a 15-minute weekly entertainment program that uses Roku data to help streamers discover new shows and hidden gems on the branded streaming platform. Co-hosts Emmy Award-winner Maria Menounos and Andrew “Hawk” Hawkins shine a spotlight on their top five best bets and movies to stream for the week.

“If you’re like me, it’s hard to pick what to stream next,” Menounos said in a statement.

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Hawk contends the concept behind “Roku Recommends” is for the hosts to do the “dirty work” and help point viewers in the right direction when streamer-indecision hits.

For Roku, directing streamers to content helps sell advertising.

“Advertisers need a new way to reach their customers, especially as more streamers spend time in ad-free, subscription-only environments,” said Chris Bruss, Head of Roku Brand Studio.

According to Roku internal data, “Roku Recommends” has been a top 10 VOD series by unique views on The Roku Channel since its debut in June. The data shows 71% of “Roku Recommends” households streamed a new channel on the Roku platform after watching an episode since its debut, and according to the company’s annual streaming survey, The Streaming Decade, conducted by the National Research Group, one in four consumers are now cord-cutters. Given this success, weekly recommendation segments will continue to provide a unique method for brands to reach their audiences and produce engaging, relevant and entertaining content.

Unlike sponsorships on traditional TV, marketers can use the Roku Measurement Partner Program to quantify whether their “Roku Recommends” integration reaches SVOD-only streamers, adds incremental reach to their overall video ad campaign, shifts perceptions of their brand, drives consumers into stores/websites, or moves product off the shelf.

“Roku Recommends” is a Roku Brand Studio series created in partnership with The Roku Channel team and produced by Funny Or Die. The Roku Brand Studio mission is to create advertiser-driven content built for TV streaming.

The show is available to stream for free on The Roku Channel, with new episodes every Thursday. Funny or Die’s Mike Farah, Beth Belew and Jim Ziegler serve as executive producers.

HBO Max Launches Alexa Voice Discovery Feature

HBO Max has launched the “HBO Max Recommends” skill for Amazon Alexa, an interactive voice discovery feature allowing users to quickly browse titles from the HBO Max catalog.

Available on Alexa-enabled devices, “HBO Max Recommends” is “a solution for users looking for something great to watch and who would like a little guidance from HBO Max and Alexa,” according to HBO Max.

To build personalized watchlists, users begin by saying, “Alexa, open HBO Max Recommends” followed by answering a series of verbal yes or no questions. They can filter recommendations by genre or ask for show descriptions, character lists and other information for hundreds of select titles.

“HBO Max Recommends” also has a multiplayer mode that interacts with up to three co-viewers, curating a list of recommendations that satisfy all members of the group. Once a session is complete, HBO Max Recommends will text them their list with links to stream the content on HBO Max.

“HBO Max continues to build on its mission of providing fun and interactive experiences to fans with their skill ‘HBO Max Recommends,’” Jason Mulderig, SVP of brand marketing for HBO Max and HBO, said in a statement. “Working with Amazon and adding this additional avenue of content discovery is another way we’re enhancing our customers’ overall viewing experience.”

The “HBO Max Recommends” skill for Alexa will also include “Spotlight Sessions,” a human-curated list of 10 titles related to current and upcoming holidays, events, anniversaries and premieres. The feature will launch in June.

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“We are so proud to work with HBO Max to launch the ‘HBO Max Recommends’ skill for Alexa and reach HBO Max users — and their family and friends — with a simplified, fun and satisfying journey as they decide what to stream from HBO Max’s premier catalog,” Steve Bernstein, director of Alexa Skills at Amazon, said in a statement. “We look forward to seeing how fans respond to and engage with this new offering with HBO Max Recommends as their guide.”

“HBO Max Recommends” was developed in partnership with Skilled Creative.

HBO Max is scheduled to launch an ad-supported subscription tier and to begin its global expansion across 39 territories in Latin America next month.

TiVo Launches New Movie, TV Show Recommendation Software

TiVo Nov. 4 announced the launch of Deep Discovery, a new API based software that helps users find movies and TV shows targeting their interests.

Elisa, a Finnish-based telecommunications and digital services company, has signed a multiyear extension of its agreement with TiVo, which will include deploying Deep Discovery to help subscribers of its video service, Elisa Viihde, find more programming and movies.

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“In a content landscape with more options than ever, advanced personalization and relevance are fundamental for products and services as consumers increasingly want to interact with brands that know what they want, before they even search for it,” Chris Ambrozic, VP of product at Discovery for Xperi, said in a statement.

TiVo’s Deep Discovery package allows TV and video service providers, consumer electronics manufacturers and new media companies to better maximize the value of their catalogs and drive conversion, engagement and loyalty. With Deep Discovery, content is enriched to a new level of detail with metadata like “moods,” “tones,” “themes,” “weighted keywords,” “age descriptors” and “popularity scores,” among others.

“We’re deepening our relationship with TiVo to make it easier for our customers to discover great content,” said Magnus Pettersson, development director at Elisa. “This new long-term agreement will benefit our customers immediately as we roll out TiVo’s API based solution. TiVo’s ambition and commitment to providing new and innovative metadata products that embrace machine learning and AI bring the opportunity to make the user experience of our IPTV&OTT services even better than before.”


Hulu Adds ‘Like’ and ‘Dislike’ Buttons to Content

Hulu Oct. 16 announced it is adding a Netflix-like perk for viewers interested rating content negatively or positively. The like/dislike buttons give viewers the opportunity to provide Hulu direct feedback on content recommendations.

When a viewer “likes” a show or movie, Hulu will suggest similar titles and TV shows. Conversely, if  programming is “disliked,” a show or movie will disappear from the subscriber’s screen.

“We’re beginning to roll out this feature today on, Amazon Fire TV devices, XboxOne, Nintendo Switch, select LG, Samsung, and Android TVs, VIZIO SmartCast TVs, and Chromecast, with other devices coming soon,” Jason Wong, director, product management, said in a statement.

Hulu is also upping user personalization to the home page, including displaying the most relevant content collections and ordering them based on the subscriber’s preferences.

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“As we roll this out, our viewers will not only be able to find their favorite shows and movies faster, but also see more diverse and relevant collections,” Wong wrote. “For animation fans, we’ll show the collection of animation programs higher on their home page, and for those who never watch kids content, we’ll order the kids collection lower on the page.”

Hulu’s improved search functions include accepting sentence abbreviations and spell check. Wong said that during testing of spell check, the software was able to identify and correct over 1,500 unique misspellings for “The Handmaid’s Tale”.

“We’ll be rolling out even more improvements to our recommendation engine to build collections tied to what you watched in the past and refine suggestions for upcoming content,” he wrote.