Digital Power: Portal Powerhouses

Driving strategy at dominant dot-coms


Jason Kilar (Illustration by Christopher Hues)
 
Jason Kilar
CEO, Hulu

Hulu's massive success has astonished many. The video site launched in February 2007 by News Corp. and NBC Universal now generates more than 40 million viewers per month with quarterly revenue surpassing even its ambitious targets. But Kilar is aiming for more surprises, like bringing in Disney as a stakeholder this year and adding more than 150 other content providers to the company's network. His motivation comes from an obsession with keeping customers happy. "I must search Twitter for what people are saying about Hulu about 20 times a day," he says.

Jeff Dossett
Former senior vp, Yahoo U.S. Audience Group

Dossett may have climbed the highest mountains on each of the seven continents, but even that feat didn't give him the stamina to last at Yahoo. He resigned last week after eight months at the company, where he managed to scale a few summits: Yahoo News pulled in 7.6 million visitors on Election Day, the largest one-day audience in online news history; and Yahoo Movies attracted 10.2 million visitors and 400 million page views during the Oscars, a 242% increase compared with the previous year. His trick was to take content and "infuse it with Yahoo tone and personality."

David Eun
Vp strategic partnerships, Google

Eun is focused on helping Google partners grow their online businesses. That might mean giving studios access to Google tools like AdSense or helping them sell excess advertising inventory. It also might mean distributing their content on YouTube or Google Maps or even launching a new music-video service, as Google and Universal Music Group did in April. "We are now monetizing hundreds of millions of videos a month," he says. "And it's still relatively early days."

Paul Greenberg
Executive vp and GM, TVGuide.com

If TV Guide is a brand you associate with your grandmother's coffee table, visit TVGuide.com. The site might be more relevant and younger-skewing than ever, ranking No. 1 among users 18-24 and 18-34 in its competitive set. "We feel we've introduced TV Guide to a whole new generation and reinvented the brand for the digital age," Greenberg says. Since coming aboard in 2006, he has quadrupled traffic. And it's not just about TV listings, which has dropped from 70% to 30% of traffic. Top-notch video aggregation and a roster of 10 reporters generating original news is giving TV Guide's audience a much broader offering.

Jordan Hoffner
Director of content partnerships, YouTube

The past year has been a turning point at YouTube. Google's online video service has signed some of Hollywood's biggest players to run movies and TV shows on the site, including ESPN, Sony and Lionsgate. Hoffner's reception at studios has ranged from "open arms" to "trepidation" to "not interested." But he insists they shouldn't be worried, noting that online video advertising remains only a tiny piece of the ad pie. "They need to look at us as another distribution mechanism, just as they would view an affiliate," he says.

Jason Kirk
Vp video and entertainment, MySpace

Kirk's job isn't that different from his training as an ICM assistant. "I still have to answer the phone all the time," he jokes. But now the stakes are a bit higher. He's made deals with Hulu, Sony, theWB.com, Warner Bros., TMZ, the Onion, Pepsi, HBO, Touchstone Pictures and Ford, to name a few. And he's spearheaded the launch of such MySpace original series as "Roommates," "Special Delivery" and "Married on MySpace," a new partnership with Endemol. MySpace is now one of the top destinations for videos on the Web: 41.2 million viewers watched 384 million videos in March, according to comScore. "The talent agency was all about selling," Kirk says. "I'm never going to be too far from that."

Joy Marcus
GM, Dailymotion U.S.

The France-based online video site is either No. 2 or No. 3 in the world depending on the month. Marcus, who left a top marketing post at Time Warner to take over U.S. operations in 2007, is a big reason why. On her watch, the site has tripled its U.S. audience, signed content deals with such top players as MTV Networks and Warner Bros. Television and attracted such advertisers as Verizon and Sony Pictures Entertainment. Marcus believes the curated environment at Dailymotion sets itself apart from YouTube's anything-goes reputation. "If YouTube is Wal-Mart," she says, "we are Urban Outfitters."


Mike Rich
Senior vp and GM, AOL Entertainment/MediaGlow Studios

Some entertainment execs hate the way the Web fragments their audiences, but not Rich. He talks about "leaning into the fragmentation" luring audiences to such popular AOL sites as AOL Music, Moviefone, AOL TV and Popeater, "then drawing their clicks deeper and deeper by catering to their passions." It's working. According to February comScore data, AOL Entertainment properties reached more than 33 million consumers a month in the U.S. and more than 120 million globally; AOL Music, the Web's most popular music destination, attracts 22 million visitors a month, up 7% compared with last year.

Kevin Yen
Director of strategic partnerships, YouTube

Yen's deceptively simple mandate is to invent a solid business model for the world's most popular video site. Although YouTube attracts more than 80 million monthly visitors, its 2008 revenue of about $90 million represents only a tiny percentage of parent company Google's sales, which totaled $5.19 billion in the first quarter alone. So Yen experiments with such ideas as PPV, branded entertainment, prerolls and paying fees to content producers when they attract enough viewers to merit posting ads. "Google was around for three or four years before it stumbled on a great business model," Yen says, noting that YouTube is just about 4 years old. "Big breakthrough ideas take awhile to emerge."

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