CEO Jason Kilar, 49, tends to be ahead of the curve. In 1997, after earning his MBA at Harvard, Kilar joined a company that was selling books over the internet called Amazon. For nearly a decade, he held a variety of leadership roles there, helping it grow into the behemoth it is today.
Then, before most of America really even knew what streaming was, Kilar left Amazon to become founding CEO of a streaming startup called Hulu. By 2013, he had led the company to more than $1 billion in revenue.
Along the way, he issued a 2011 blog as a manifesto that became famous in the industry for challenging the status quo (and his corporate bosses). “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, critiquing traditional TV for having too many ads and the industry as a whole for not understanding how people want to be able to control when and on what screens they can watch their programming. It also explored the importance of understanding the influence of social media.
In 2013, Kilar became co-founder and CEO of Vessel, a next-generation online video service, bought by Verizon Communications in 2016.
He also served on the boards of Dreamworks Animation and Brighter and is currently on the board of Univision Communications, Opendoor, Wealthfront and Habitat for Humanity International.
Now at WarnerMedia, Kilar has quickly made an impact. While he acknowledged a large learning curve in the cable and film sides when he started in the spring — not to mention a pandemic and a shaky economy that is changing business dynamics daily — there clearly was confidence in his penchant for being detail-oriented yet also trusting of department heads.
Not surprisingly, he has emphasized the centrality of streaming and HBO Max in the company’s future. He also showed confidence in his grasp of the company’s situation. In August, three top executives — Robert Greenblatt, Kevin Reilly and Keith Cocozza — suddenly found themselves out of a job, with Kilar saying in interviews, “Disciplined companies have to make tough decisions.”
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Stuart Miller has been writing about television for 30 years since he first joined Variety as a staff writer. He has written about television for The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, The Boston Globe, Newsweek, Vulture and numerous other publications.
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