Hulu Plus Upgrades Its Living Room Experience With A New Look, Search, Controls & Added Kids Section

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Hulu may be courting bidders right now, but in the meantime, the company is shipping a new Hulu Plus experience for the living room, with updates hitting today. The user interface on Samsung TVs and Blu-ray players, Roku set-top boxes, and soon Nintendo’s Wii, is being upgraded with a new look and feature set to help viewers better discover and search for shows.

The company launched Hulu Plus for living rooms a couple of years ago beginning with the PlayStation 3, and the latest big upgrade rolled out last fall. With today’s update, the company has made more improvements to the navigation, controls, search, and even the artwork — the latter which it touts as “larger and more vivid,” for example.

The new controls are designed to make playback easier, with up or down to display the playback menu, and left or right to fast-forward and rewind. Search results now appear directly beneath the search, and a tray-style format lets users scroll through personalized recommendations, popular TV shows and movies, top 100 clips, movie trailers, and a new “Shows You Watch” feature that lets viewers quickly access the latest episodes of their favorite programs.

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There are also theme-based suggestions, like “Movies for Memorial Day” or “Time-Traveling Heroes.” And movie trailers, meanwhile, are organized in a new section with categories like “Opening This Week,” “In Theaters Now,” “Coming Soon” and “Popular Trailers.”

Another big feature is the addition of “Hulu Kids” to the living room experience. The company launched the kid-friendly section back in November as a way to find commercial-free children’s programming — similar to what Netflix already provided through its own “Just for Kids” interface.

Though maybe not as immediately noticeable when compared with the overhaul look-and-feel upgrade, the expanded access to “Hulu Kids” comes at a time when Netflix has dropped popular kids’ TV programming from its lineup due to negotiation issues with Viacom. Netflix has since lost top kids’ TV shows like “Dora the Explorer,” “Go Diego Go,” “Blue’s Clues” and “SpongeBob Squarepants,” for example. Hulu Plus at least offers SpongeBob to those streaming-only parents going without one of their kids’ favorites.

The upgrades to Samsung and Roku devices are rolling out now, and should automatically update within the next 48 hours.