Hulu just posted an internal email from CEO Jason Kilar to its blog, indicating that he and CTO Rich Tom will be leaving the company during the first quarter of 2013. The timing is new, but word that Kilar was on his way out was circulating as early as August 2012, when an internal memo included a passage about transitioning to a new CEO.
In the email announcing his and Tom’s departure, Kilar said he’ll be working with the board to ensure a smooth transition. Kilar said that the decision was difficult, but didn’t share much about the reasoning behind his or Rich’s departure, or what they’ll be doing next.
“I’ve been so fortunate to play a role in this amazing, ongoing journey,” he wrote in the email. “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.”
Kilar says in the blog post that he’ll be providing a more specific date to the Hulu team at a later date, but also plans to be involved in steering- the company “for much of Q1.” The exiting CEO took the reins at Hulu in June 2007, shortly after it was formally announced. He helped grow the company to its current state, with 3 million paying subscribers for Hulu Plus, the premium version of the service launched in late 2010.
In December 2012, Hulu said that it managed $695 million in revenue, a 65 percent increase from its 2011 haul. The content library also grew 40 percent over the year, and in total, the company managed to generate more than $1 billion in revenue for content partners who offer video through the service.
Recently, however, Hulu has been seen as facing a number of complex issues, thanks in part to the exit of private equity firm Providence, which sold its stake in the company for $200 million in October. Providence was seen by some as the last disinterested party on a board full of media companies, all of which have a more direct stake in the content that appears on Hulu as streaming video. When Providence made its exit, our own Ryan Lawler explained why the time might soon be ripe for Kilar to exit, perhaps to explore more entrepreneurial pursuits.
At the time of Providence’s equity sell-off, Lawler said not to expect an immediate departure by Kilar, but he did say to watch for developments along those lines to start taking shape within the 12 months that followed that move. It might be early yet to call Kilar and Tom’s exit the beginning of an “unraveling,” as Lawler put it, but watchers will definitely be paying a lot more attention to what Hulu does next now that one of its primary architects is taking his leave.