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Hulu Adds Channel Guide to Live-TV Web User Interface

Turns out, people want to watch TV streamed over the internet a lot like they have watched TV for years: by flipping through live channels.

Hulu in August rolled out a dedicated web portal for subscribers of the $40-per-month live TV service, at beta.hulu.com. But the initial iteration of the web user-interface for live TV was lacking a channel guide akin to the interactive guides that are a standard feature of on cable and satellite TV.

“We know that many of you love the new UI, but we also know that many of you miss having a channel guide for Live TV,” Ben Smith, Hulu’s head of experience, wrote in a blog post Wednesday. “So, on the web experience for live TV, we have enhanced the UI to make it easier to see what’s on now, what’s on next and change the channel while you watch and plan for your afternoon or night of TV.”

With the updated web UI for live TV, users can now scroll through all of their channels to see what’s on now, or click the arrow on the right to see what’s up next on any channel. In addition, you can click on the channel logo or the program name to start watching that channel, as well as filter programming to find and sort sports, news or kids programming.

In general, since launching the Hulu Live TV service in May, the company has heard from customers who’ve told Hulu “that our live content feels, at times, hidden or harder to get to than you would like,” Smith wrote.

The original challenge for Hulu was how to integrate its on-demand content with the live TV channels in a “seamless” way, Smith continued. That led to its initial design geared around a personalized UI, letting viewers follow specific shows or favorite networks. But Hulu Live TV users wanted a separate UI just for watching live television; the Hulu web interface for live TV does that, and now it includes a familiar channel guide.

In the web UI, Hulu also has changed the way it recommends content. Smith noted that live TV customers watch a lot of sports, so Hulu updated the web interface to provide curated areas for college football and NFL games, automatically recommending games with teams users have added to “My Stuff.” The web UI also more frequently suggests live news and sports if viewers have expressed interest in that programming. As a result, according to Smith, viewing of live content increased by 70% with the new web UI.

Hulu’s Live TV bundle includes about 50 broadcast and cable networks including ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, ESPN, CNN, Fox News, TBS, TNT and Disney Channel (with Showtime is available for $9 extra per month). Absent from the lineup are HBO and channels from AMC Networks, Viacom, Starz, and Discovery Communications.

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