Hulu Gets Disney-fied User Interface Upgrade

New navigation-friendly design matches Disney+, ESPN+ platforms

Photo of Hulu's user interface
Hulu's UI update is centered on improving navigation and content discovery on the platform.
Hulu

Hulu’s user interface is getting a facelift—one that will make the platform look a lot more like the other offerings in Disney’s streaming portfolio.

An updated UI, which will go live today for connected TV app users and some Roku devices, will allow subscribers to scroll vertically to look at different content groupings and then explore those categories via a horizontal row. Hulu currently requires users on connected TV apps and mobile app to scroll vertically to browse programming one entry at a time, with show and movie titles taking up the entire television or mobile screen in most sections of the app.

The new navigation function comes a week after Disney began its first major marketing push around what it now calls the Disney Bundle, which groups Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu’s ad-supported tier together for $12.99. (The bundle is offering up a number of specials today as part of a “streaming day” celebration.)

Hulu’s new UI pattern is already featured on Disney+ and ESPN+, and the hope of updating Hulu’s interface is, according to company executives, to make all three services under the Disney umbrella more streamlined so there is a similar user experience across the entire bundle.

“This navigation pattern is something our viewers are accustomed to and matches the navigation pattern across Disney+ and ESPN+, making it easier for viewers who subscribe to the Disney bundle to switch between services and navigate with ease,” vp, head of product management Jim Denney and director, product management Jason Wong, said in a blog post about the updated interface. “When testing, viewers found it easy and intuitive to adjust to this updated navigation pattern.”

The updates will also aim to simplify navigation by grouping categories of content like TV, movies and sports to the master navigation so users can more quickly access those content options. Tiles showing off programming will now vary in size on the service, with new shows and movies highlighted with bigger tiles and “keep watching” titles appearing in smaller sizes.

The UI update means that viewers can see more programming options on the screen while they browse. And the new interface will offer personalized collections from Hulu’s human editors, along with algorithm-driven recommendations just like Disney+ and ESPN+ do.

Hulu’s new interface will begin rolling out today, but it may take up to a few months for the changes to be reflected across all platforms. The changes may be a welcome update for some of Hulu’s users, as the interface has not always won points for its ease of use.

The design upgrade will make Hulu more like other streaming services on the market that offer up tile-like collections of programming aimed at helping users easily find programming they’re interested in. It will also place human-curated collections more front and center a week before the debut of a major rival streaming service: HBO Max, the upcoming streaming service from WarnerMedia.

At an investor day last year, WarnerMedia executives detailed plans for HBO Max’s user interface, which will center on human-generated watch lists and tile-based recommendations. Other streamers on the market, including Netflix and Tubi, have leaned into algorithmically generated recommendations, but most services use a tile-based library to show off the different programs users may want to watch.

While the user interface is less sexy than original content, it is nonetheless one crucial component that streamers are focused on getting right to keep users engaged with the programming on their services. “The No. 1 goal for us is not to drive consumption of a particular show or a particular piece of content, but to get the right piece of content in front of the right people,” Hulu vp of brand and content marketing Ryan Crosby previously told Adweek.

The updates offer up another sign that Hulu will continue to change under its new position under the Disney umbrella. The service is a key cornerstone to Disney’s overall streaming strategy, which aims to leverage Hulu for more programming aimed at adults, including FX programming, which rolled out on the service in March, and titles from other linear brands like Freeform. Meanwhile, Disney+ remains the go-to for kids content and major franchises like Marvel and Star Wars, while ESPN+ serves as the home for some live sports programming and on-demand content like sports documentaries and interview series.

Disney’s streaming segment is facing some shake-ups of its own. Kevin Mayer, the chairman of Disney’s direct-to-consumer and international segment, resigned this week to become CEO of the social platform TikTok and Rebecca Campbell, a 23-year Disney veteran, was named Mayer’s successor. The news comes amid some executive shuffles at Hulu, including the departure of ad sales chief Peter Naylor to social platform Snap.


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