Hulu CEO Jason Kilar has announced he’s stepping down in the first quarter of this year.Kilar has led Hulu since its inception. His departure has been rumoured for a long time. He recently sold $40 million worth of Hulu stock, which makes his decision to leave that much easier.
Below is Kilar’s note about leaving, which Hulu posted on its blog.
Hulu CTO Rich Tom will also be leaving. Peter Kafka at All Things D warned that Hulu was going to lose many of its employees because it is no longer being treated like a startup. Instead of compensating people with equity, which has a tremendous upside, it’s paying people with cash, like any other media asset.
Kilar’s legacy will be overwhelmingly positive, but there is an asterisk.
He built a very strong media brand from scratch, but he had the best content in the world with which to build that brand. And despite having exclusive access to the most popular shows in the world, Hulu isn’t even one of the top 10 most popular video sites on the web in the U.S., according to comScore. Hulu is the third biggest video ad property, though.
In his departure note, Kilar says Hulu generated over $1 billion in revenue for content partners since launch. This is a big number, but for its parent companies — Comcast, News Corp., Disney — it’s not a lot of money when split up.
The real amazement of Kilar’s tenure is that he was able to make Hulu happened at all. The companies he had to corral — NBC, Fox, Viacom, ABC, etc. — didn’t want to put their content online. They didn’t want to give up their lucrative cable and broadcast business. But they saw online as a potential threat and figured they should get in front of it.
It turns out TV has managed to survive the onslaught of the Internet pretty well. A defence like Hulu might not be needed after all.
What Kilar did very well was create a wonderful user experience with Hulu. The Hulu product was excellent. And that, just as much as the great content, allowed the company to flourish.
Here is his post saying good bye:
Earlier today, I sent the below email to the Hulu team:
In what is an understatement, this email has proven difficult for me to both write and send.
I’ve decided to depart Hulu in Q1. I am currently working with the Board to ensure there is ample runway to manage this transition.
Rich Tom will be doing the same, with roughly the same departure date. Rich and I have been fortunate to build and innovate alongside each other these past 5+ years and our plan is to do more of that on the road ahead.
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.
For me, the journey started with a move to California and a walk into an empty office suite in early July 2007. In the weeks afterward, some brave souls that were willing to look past the many naysayers and ClownCo moniker jumped aboard and got about the business of innovating and building. Five and a half years later, thanks to the missionary work of this amazing 600+ worldwide team and courageous, prescient partners, we are fortunate to have collectively built a culture that matters, a brand that matters, a business that matters. Our convictions and our relentless pursuit of better ways have made the difference and will continue to make the difference. 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.
And while the above outputs are impressive and laudatory, the things that have clearly brought the most joy to my heart (and what I believe to be the most important inputs in our business) have been this team and the values and principles we hold dear.
Perhaps the best way to express this is to let you in on a little routine I have followed these past 5+ years. Each day, as I enter the office lobby, I take the time to enjoy the many portraits of our team members that line the walls. From Damon gorging on a 2 foot high cold cut sandwich to Jesse showing off his sweet kicks. Portraits from Beijing to Boston and the other fine Hulu offices in between. Those portraits – along with the What Defines Hulu? document on those same walls – mean so much to me, as it is a daily and vivid reminder of how great this team is and how we bring such passion and principle to what we do. Without fail, I am reminded in those moments of reflection why we do what we do, why this work is a mission and never a job.
I’ve been so fortunate to play a role in this amazing, ongoing journey. My decision to depart has been one of the toughest I’ve ever made. Though the words will fall short of the intended mark, please know how much this team means to me and how very thankful I am to be able to innovate and build alongside you each day.
As dates and other items get solidified, I will update the team. But in the meantime and for much of Q1, I will be here as we get off to a very strong start in 2013…