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WarnerMedia Names Former Hulu Exec Kilar CEO

New WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar. (Image credit: Verizon/Vessel)

WarnerMedia said it has named former Hulu CEO and founder Jason Kilar as its new chief executive, replacing John Stankey who remains chief operating officer of parent AT&T.

AT&T had been searching for a WarnerMedia CEO ever since promoting Stankey to the COO position in September. Kilar was among several executives--including former Hulu CEO Randy Freer and former Walt Disney Co. COO Tom Staggs--being considered for the job, according to reports. 

Kilar will assume his new role on May 1.

As CEO of Hulu from its formation in 2007 to 2013, Kilar had a reputation for shaking up the TV business. This created friction with Hulu’s joint-venture owners, which at the time included Fox, NBCUniversal and the Walt Disney Co. (Disney now controls 100% of Hulu.)

WarnerMedia was formed when AT&T acquired Time Warner in 2018. Most of the top executives at Time Warner have left, including CEO Jeff Bewkes and David Levy, the head of Time Warner’s Turner unit, and Richard Plepler, CEO of HBO.

WarnerMedia aimed to break down the silos between HBO, Turner and Warner Bros. as it looked to scale up to enter the streaming market. The company plans to launch its streaming product, HBO Max, later this year.

“Jason is a dynamic executive with the right skill set to lead WarnerMedia into the future. His experience in media and entertainment, direct-to-consumer video streaming and advertising is the perfect fit for WarnerMedia, and I am excited to have him lead the next chapter of WarnerMedia’s storied success,” Stankey said in a press release. 

“Our team led by Bob Greenblatt, Ann Sarnoff, Gerhard Zeiler and Jeff Zucker has done an amazing job establishing our brands as leaders in the hearts and minds of consumers," Stankey added. "Adding Jason to the talented WarnerMedia family as we launch HBO Max in May gives us the right management team to strategically position our leading portfolio of brands, world-class talent and rich library of intellectual property for future growth.”

Prior to Hulu, Kilar served in several positions at Amazon from 1997 to 2006, including senior VP of worldwide application software. Kilar also was co-founder & CEO of video streaming service Vessel from 2013 to 2017.

“In partnership with this world-class team, I'm so excited for the opportunity to lean into the future at WarnerMedia,” said Kilar in a press release. “Stories well told have always mattered, and they matter even more in this challenging time for the world. It will be a privilege to invent, create, and serve with so many talented people. May 1st can't get here soon enough.”

As for Stankey, he oversaw the previous--and now abandoned--iteration of AT&T's video strategy, which centered around the 2017 launch of virtual pay TV service DirecTV Now (now called AT&T TV Now).