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Hulu Acquires Video Genome Project to Enhance Recommendations for Live TV, VOD

Hulu has acquired the assets of the Video Genome Project, billed as one of the biggest databases of video content on the market, which Hulu will use to deliver personalized recommendations starting next year.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The Video Genome Project was backed by venture-capital firm Segel Group Limited. Hulu said it expects to fully incorporate VGP’s data into its recommendation system by the first quarter of 2017.

Hulu’s acquisition of VGP comes ahead of the company’s planned launch of a live internet-delivered TV service in early 2017, expanding beyond its subscription VOD services. Hulu said a small number of Video Genome Project employees will be joining the company.

“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,” Ben Smith, head of experience at Hulu, said in announcing the deal.

VGP’s technology also promises to help Hulu in battling Netflix, which has made personal recommendations a hallmark of its service since it was only a DVD-by-mail service.

The Video Genome Project was founded in 2013 by Xavier Kochhar, who previously was a managing partner at MediaLink. He also has worked for the Walt Disney Co., XK Entertainment and WME. “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,” Kochhar said in a statement.

Hulu says Santa Monica-based VGP developed a way to automatically aggregate existing metadata around video content. The system assigns “genes” to TV shows and movies based on hundreds of contextual attributes identified in the metadata, which are then associated to identify the unique relationships among titles. That, according to the Video Genome Project, results in more relevant recommendations that are far better than linking genre, actors, writers or directors.

According to Hulu, 75% of all viewing on Hulu is driven by recommended programming. Over the past year, Hulu has added personalization features tailored to each user, including through a watchlist, recommendations on the home page, and personalized masthead.

Hulu is owned by Comcast’s NBCUniversal, Disney and 21st Century Fox — which each hold a 30% stake — along with Time Warner, which owns 10%.

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