Hulu CEO is leaving as company wrestles with future

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It’s finally happened. Hulu CEO Jason Kilar announced today that he will be walking away from the video site by the end of this quarter. SVP and Chief Technology Officer Rich Tom will be heading out the door with him.

The news, which Kilar announced Friday via a memo on Hulu’s company blog, comes after a year of uncertainty about the video site’s ownership and strategy. In the memo, Kilar describes the decision to leave as difficult and explains he and Tom will stay on for a while to manage the transition. He also cited what he sees as Hulu’s accomplishments:

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.

As reported by my colleague Janko Roettgers, Kilar and Hulu’s corporate owners, including Disney and News Corp, have clashed over the future vision of the site. It’s unclear, for instance, whether Hulu wants to be become a wide open YouTube-type site or instead act as a TV-everywhere type extension that would only be accessible to those who could authenticate with a cable subscription code. These tensions also deepened after a buyout of co-owners Providence Equity Partner last summer.

We’ll have more on Kilar’s departure and the future of Hulu later today. The entirety of Kilar’s note to Hulu employees follows below:

Earlier today, I sent the below email to the Hulu team:

In what is an understatement, this email has proven difficult for me to both write and send.

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.

Rich Tom will be doing the same, with roughly the same departure date. Rich and I have been fortunate to build and innovate alongside each other these past 5+ years and our plan is to do more of that on the road ahead.

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.

And while the above outputs are impressive and laudatory, the things that have clearly brought the most joy to my heart (and what I believe to be the most important inputs in our business) have been this team and the values and principles we hold dear.

Perhaps the best way to express this is to let you in on a little routine I have followed these past 5+ years. Each day, as I enter the office lobby, I take the time to enjoy the many portraits of our team members that line the walls. From Damon gorging on a 2 foot high cold cut sandwich to Jesse showing off his sweet kicks. Portraits from Beijing to Boston and the other fine Hulu offices in between. Those portraits – along with the What Defines Hulu? document on those same walls – mean so much to me, as it is a daily and vivid reminder of how great this team is and how we bring such passion and principle to what we do. Without fail, I am reminded in those moments of reflection why we do what we do, why this work is a mission and never a job.

I’ve been so fortunate to play a role in this amazing, ongoing journey. My decision to depart has been one of the toughest I’ve ever made. Though the words will fall short of the intended mark, please know how much this team means to me and how very thankful I am to be able to innovate and build alongside you each day.

As dates and other items get solidified, I will update the team. But in the meantime and for much of Q1, I will be here as we get off to a very strong start in 2013…

Jason

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