The rumor mill has been in overdrive regarding Hulu CEO Jason Kilar’s future since the end of summer, but now the suspicions can be put to bed after he announced his departure from Hulu. This may mean that new opportunities open up for those looking for media jobs.
Kilar, who has held posts at NBC Universal and was previously SVP of Worldwide Application Software at Amazon.com Inc where he was responsible for Amazon’s Marketplace, will take his leave of the company he has helped grow from an industry joke (Hulu was, at one time, referred to by many as ClownCo), to a business that can holds its own against the giants of movie and TV streaming, Netflix and Amazon. Hulu raked in nearly $700 million in revenue last year and Kilar, who has confirmed he will leave the company in Q1 of 2013, will miss out on the launch of the Hulu Plus App.
Hulu – A Complicated Mix
Although speculation surrounding Kilar’s life-expectancy at Hulu was rife back in August, many believe the process actually started in the Fall, when Providence Equity’s stake was bought out by Hulu’s other owners Comcast, News Corp and Disney. The transaction allowed Kilar to sell back his share for a very which was rumoured to be worth around $40 million.
Hulu is owned by a number of large entertainment companies including Disney, Comcast Corp., and News Corp, which also owns The Wall Street Journal. Kilar’s planned departure comes as the partners indulge in a rather intense debate about Hulu’s future strategy, including whether it should be an ad-supported free service or a subscription-based service. Many criticise the company for not taking advantage of ad opportunities and making mega bucks.
Kilar and his owners have never been easy bedfellows and he’s never made a secret of the fact he is critical of their strategies. A controversial blog post in 2011 saw his rather thinly veiled opinions aired in public. This was a move that didn’t make him popular with his board and now he’s upping sticks, at a time when the business is on the verge of making itself available to almost every kind of computer, tablet and smartphone on the market.
Why Is He Leaving?
Kilar had been pressing the owners to invest more in Hulu to allow it to expand, and it was reported last month that he’d asked them to input $200 million to fund more programming development. This is almost double what the partners invested in the company the year before. A source close to the company said the owners had not yet responded to Kilar’s funding request.
The blog post he wrote to announce his exit gave nothing away.
It stated: “I’ve been so fortunate to play a role in this amazing, ongoing journey,” he said. He added that that he would work with the board during Q1 to make the transition as seamless as possible.
Let’s hope so, because despite the profits, all is not rosy at Hulu. There have been reports that staff are frustrated because they’re being paid with cash and not stock. The company was up for sale in the summer but didn’t find a buyer at the right price. And running a company run owned by two of the world’s biggest media giants, which has to license content from other media companies, is a complicated undertaking.
So who’s being feted as Kilar’s successor? There has already been some educated guesses on this one. Some believe that an executive from one of the parent companies would be the best fit, while others feel new blood is what’s needed. Some have even suggested a name, believing that ex-Yahoo CEO Ross Levinsohn, who has yet to settle down since Marissa Mayer took his chair, fits the bill perfectly.