Media

Peace out: Hulu CEO Jason Kilar resigns

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Hulu’s longtime chief exec Jason Kilar announced his resignation from the company he help build into a web TV powerhouse over five years ago.

“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,” Kilar said in a letter posted on the Hulu blog.

From the letter:

“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.”

Kilar isn’t the only member of the executive team taking a leave from Hulu. Senior Vice President and CTO Richard Tom is also departing the company, according to Kilar’s letter. At this point neither Kilar or Tom have indicated where they’ll be headed next, but there is plenty of speculation as to why the chose now to leave.

The departures may have something to do with an offer by Hulu’s media company owners to buy out long-time employee’s shares in the service, which was part of the deal Hulu made with former partner Providence Equity. Last week, AllThingsD’s Peter Kafka predicted that with the deal going into effect (and former partners now getting their big payout) many of those employees would soon depart Hulu.

Providence and the smaller partners previously served as mediators over disagreements between Hulu’s media company owners (Disney, News Corp., and Comcast) about the service’s business strategy. Disney feels Hulu should continue to focus on its primarily free, ad-supported service of recent TV shows, while News Corp. thinks Hulu best chance at success is in becoming a subscription-only, ad-supported service that’s supplemental to cable TV providers. (Comcast cannot make business decisions about Hulu due to an agreement it made with the FCC when it purchased NBCUniversal.)

About the only thing both Disney and News Corp. can agree on is boosting the number of commercials that play during a show. And since both produce their own programming (via Disney’s ABC network and News Corp.’s Fox), it seems unlikely that Hulu will continue its strategy for producing original content.

It’ll be interesting to see who replaces Kilar. My guess is that Hulu’s next CEO will be someone who has previously held a high-level management position in the television industry.