Skip to main content

Jason Kilar: Enjoying a History of Confounding Skeptics

B&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.”