On Friday, Hulu’s Chief Executive Jason Kilar dropped the news that he’d be stepping down from the streaming video service at a time when the company is weighing two futures: It can either continue to wholly embrace free video content supported by ads or give itself up to a future as a subscription-based streaming service. With Kilar’s exit, the future becomes a bit muddy.
Kilar bid adieu via a blog post, where he revealed an email he’d send to his team to announce the news of his departure after five years at the helm. He spoke glowingly of his accomplishments at the company, leading off with: “It is impossible to state in words how much this team means to me, how much Hulu means to me. But I’ll do my best.”
So why’s he leaving? It’s unclear, but the Wall Street Journal reports that Kilar had been asking the company’s owners — Walt Disney, Comcast and News Corp — for $200 million to invest in programming development. That’s about double what the partners ponied out the year before, so perhaps his vision of original content and plans to expand on that caused some friction at the company.
A WSJ source says the owners hadn’t responded to Kilar’s request for money, but Hulu has some big competitors to deal with in the form of Amazon and Netflix that all shell out a lot of funding for programming. Hulu’s bread and butter so far has been streaming certain TV shows and some movies, and it seems Kilar wanted to expand the entertainment options for users.
Kilar has been with Hulu almost since its inception, a time glowingly described by him in his blog post where he recalls the company’s accomplishments:
We have grown from a few hundred thousand in revenue in 2007 to generating almost $700 million in revenue in 2012 alone. We have created a video subscription service that is growing unusually fast, adding over 200K new subscribers in the past 7 days alone (a new record). We have proudly generated over $1 Billion for our content partners since we excitedly entered private beta in October 2007. Our video advertising service delivers world-class results and sets the pace for the industry. We have authored scores of inventions along the way.
The powers that be seem to be fine waving goodbye to Kilar, without giving a hint of what will happen with the service under the leadership of someone new.
Disney’s CEO Bob Iger said in a statement that Kilar had “been an integral part of the Hulu story, transforming it from an interesting idea into an innovative business model that continues to evolve.” He added: “We share his confidence in his team’s ability to drive Hulu forward from here.”
Hulu CEO to Depart as Site Ponders Strategy [Wall Street Journal]