Hulu is owned by traditional media powers the Walt Disney Company, Comcast and the News Corporation (ABC, NBC, Fox), none of whom apparently will be sorry to see the former Amazon wunderkind exit.
Kilar, 41, and his traditional media overlords remained at odds over revenues and content exclusivity pretty much since Hulu went into beta in late 2007. Last year, Hulu produced about $700 million in revenue, but still wasn’t making money, like the “start-up” Kilar long maintained Hulu was.
In February 2011, Kilar wrote a lengthy blog post about the TV business and the monetization of streaming media that proved the beginning of the end for the executive.
“History has shown that incumbents tend to fight trends that challenge established ways and, in the process, lose focus on what matters most: customers,” he wrote. “Hulu is not burdened by that legacy.”
Hulu is a success story, more or less. Certainly based on initial expectations. Before launch, new media wags had pronounced it Clown Co. — and later ate their words as the service pioneered the streaming of professional entertainment content.
In 2008, Kilar said the online TV service owed its mojo to one simple rule: “We obsess over every pixel.”
Hulu tried to monetize itself solely with advertising revenues, but the strategy wasn’t rich enough for their owners. Kilar then launched Hulu Plus, similar to Netflix, billed as a “treasure chest in the cloud for TV lovers.” Although it also offers movies, Hulu Prime’s so-so theatrical offerings proved no match for Netflix’s enormous stash — even with Kilar’s coup in stealing away rights to the Criterion Collection.
Meanwhile, content-deal crazy Amazon Prime has nailed down the No. 2 slot in streaming film and TV. Kilar steered Amazon into streaming media during his tenure there.
Disney CEO Bob Iger and News Corp. No. 2 Chase Carey reportedly led the loyal opposition to Hulu and Kilar.
Kilar went public with his resignation Jan. 4: “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,” Kilar blogged Jan. 4 as he announced his departure in Q1.
Iger credited Kilar with taking Hulu “from an interesting idea into an innovative business model that continues to evolve.”
Carey’s boss, Rupert Murdoch, also praised Kilar for leaving Hulu “incredibly well positioned for the road ahead.”