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The Rumors Were Right – Jason Kilar’s Heading Out the Door

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 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.

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