Monday, July 11, 2016

Why I Don't Like Hulu's Watchlist

For years now the shows and movies any given Hulu user wanted to watch were sorted into one of three sections: there was Shows You Watch for shows one is currently watching; there was the Queue, for movies one wants to watch; and there was Favourites, for one's favourite shows and movies. Unfortunately last week Hulu rolled out its new Watchlist to all of its users. Watchlist consolidates the functions of Shows You Watch, the Queue, and Favourites into one list. Allegedly Watchlist is supposed to make watching shows and movies on Hulu easier. According to Ben Smith of Hulu, "Watchlist dynamically tailors the order of your content to match how you watch TV and suggests actions for you."

Unfortunately for Hulu, a quick search on Twitter and on Google reveals that there are a lot of users who not only dislike Watchlist, they absolutely loathe it. In fact, looking at the various tweets I would say that reaction to Watchlist has been overwhelmingly negative. Many users have made it clear that they want the Shows You Watch, the Queue, and Favourites back. There is even a hashtag, #bringbackthequeue. There is also a petition on Care 2 Petitions demanding that Shows You Watch, the Queue, and Favourites be restored, although it only has 167 signatures so far.  It seems fairly clear to me that Hulu users really don't like Watchlist. What is more, I have to say that I believe their complaints are legitimate.

Indeed, while I don't necessarily hate Watchlist, I do dislike it and I much preferred using Shows You Watch, the Queue, and Favourites. The problem with Watchlist is that it actually makes it more difficult to watch shows While the shows I am currently watching are at the start of the queue, to watch something I'm not currently watching I have to scroll through several movies and even shows I haven't watched in a while. This is not nearly as handy as having three different sections, each with its own function. I wanted to watch a movie? I went to the Queue. I wanted to watch something new, I went to Favourites. I wanted to continue watching a show I have been watching for a while, I went to Shows You Watch. It's hard for me to understand how Hulu thought Watchlist would be easier to use than that. Indeed, the fact that Watchlist is harder to use than Shows You Watch, the Queue, and Favourites is the major complaint many users have about it.

Of course, users might not be quite so angry about Watchlist if it wasn't rather buggy. I seem to be unable to add shows to my Watchlist as I am supposed to be able to. I suspect the only way I will be able to add a show is to actually watch it. This makes it very hard for me to plan ahead and add shows I want to watch in the future, as I would with the old Favourites section.

Other people have had the exact opposite problem. Reading various tweets on Twitter and complaints elsewhere on the internet, it seems that some people found their Watchlists filled with shows they had never watched and had no intention of watching. Yet others discovered many of the shows they regularly watch and many of their Favourites were missing from Watchlist, even though the shows were still available on Hulu. It seems in many cases that Watchlist does not function the way that it is supposed to.

The outrage with regards to Watchlist has been so great that I do feel sorry for Hulu Support. In my experience Hulu has some of the best customer service around. Hulu Support has always been polite and helpful to me, and they have always solved any problem I might have. Sadly, right now they taking the brunt of anger over a decision to change Hulu in which they had no say whatsoever. 

I can only guess that in creating Watchlist Hulu was was trying to do something similar to Netflix's "My List" or Amazon Prime's own "Watchlist". That having been said, one thing I always preferred about Hulu to Netflix and Amazon Prime is the fact that it was so much easier to organise shows and movies with Shows You Watch, the Queue, and Favourites. Both Netflix's My List and Amazon Prime's Watchlist are difficult to navigate and are much less easily organised than Hulu's Shows You Watch, Quene, and Favourites were. Sadly, Hulu's Watchlist is a hot mess like Netflix and Amazon Prime's lists.

It should be little wonder, then, that many Hulu users are angry. While I have no plans to cancel my account any time soon, I have seen many state on Twitter and elsewhere that they plan to do so. I really think Hulu ought to do something before they lose very many customers. In fact, I think they really have only two choices available to them. One is to entirely forget about making improvements to Watchlist and simply restoring Shows You Watch, the Queue, and Favourites. The other is to make Watchlist something into which one must opt in. If you don't opt in, then you have Shows You Watch, the Queue, and Favourites instead. At this point I think the worst thing for Hulu to do is to force users to keep a Watchlist they loathe.

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