Jason Kilar: Enjoying a History of Confounding Skeptics
Hulu CEO faces new challenges, but is armed with big programming budget
By George Winslow -- Broadcasting & Cable, 8/20/2012 12:01:00 AMB&C's 2012 Digital All-Stars
When Hulu launched in August 2007, the prognosis for CEO Jason Kilar making B&C’s 2012 list of Digital All-Stars on the company’s fifth anniversary would not have been promising. Early on, there was considerable skepticism that “old media” companies like NBCUniversal and News Corp. could even work together period, let alone jointly back a successful Internet start-up.
“When we got going, we were called ‘Clown Co.,’” Kilar admitted during the D: Dive Into Media event last January, adding a few moments later that “the journey we are on at Hulu is certainly not for the faint of heart….You have to be a bit crazy to do this.”
In recent years, Hulu confounded many skeptics by quickly becoming a powerhouse in online video advertising, with its ad-supported service attracting some 38 million unique visitors a month and a 20% share of the online video ad business.
The Hulu Plus subscription business has also racked up more than 2 million subscribers faster than any other video subscription service, the company reports. Overall Hulu had about $420 million in revenue in 2011, up from $263 million in 2010.
Kilar will need all his skills to continue the company’s growth, however. Hulu owners Fox, Disney/ABC, NBCU and Providence Equity Partners backed away from plans to sell the company last year. The network owners are now looking to put more content behind a pay wall, either as part of a TV Everywhere deal with multichannel providers or on the Hulu Plus subscription service.
That raises a number of questions about Hulu’s future, which Kilar declined to discuss. But it’s clear that Hulu is working to offer more content, including more original programming, with a $500 million programming budget this year. Hulu has also been working to expand the number of devices it reaches and to improve the appeal of its already successful advertising efforts. This year, for example, Hulu instituted a policy so that sponsors don’t pay anything unless the ad is streamed all the way through.
“We want to create a distribution service that helps distribute great content to consumers in a way that works for content owners,” Kilar said at D: Dive. “That is not controversial….[ But] how you get there is where there is a lot of bumpy road.”
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