AMC's Joel Stillerman Tapped as Hulu's Chief Content Officer

Joel Stillerman - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of Hulu

Following a months-long search, Hulu has found its new chief content officer.

AMC and Sundance TV president of original programming Joel Stillerman will exit and take the newly created post at Hulu. Craig Erwich will remain on as senior vp and head of content, though he will shift his focus exclusively on Hulu's original programming. Stillerman, who will begin his new role this summer and report directly to Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins, will relocate from New York to Los Angeles, where he will be based at Hulu's Santa Monica headquarters.

"This year is a transformative year for Hulu — not just in our products, but also our investment in acquired and original content," Hopkins said Wednesday in a statement. "Over the past several years, we’ve grown our audience and our content offering exponentially, and now is the right time to add Joel’s creative and strategic leadership to the team and drive the next phase of Hulu’s content business."

The new CCO will be charged with evolving and driving Hulu's content strategy, overseeing acquisitions, developing originals and content partner management teams. He will work with Hulu department heads on marketing, distribution, ad sales, technology and product and will look to bolster the streamer's ad revenue and subscriber growth.  

Stillerman, who joined AMC post-Mad Men and Breaking Bad in 2008, added Sundance TV to his purview in 2015. During his tenure at AMC, he helped develop The Walking Dead (TV's No. 1 show among the advertiser-coveted adults 18-49 demographic); its spinoff, Fear the Walking Dead; Breaking Bad prequel Better Call Saul; The Night Manager; and Into the Badlands. 

Stillerman's hiring comes at a key time for Hulu. Six years after entering the scripted space — and four years after a $750 million investment from its studio owners (Fox, Comcast and Disney) fueled a more significant push into originals — Hulu had yet to generate a breakout hit, both in buzz and in acclaim. (Like other streamers, Hulu doesn't release viewership figures.) That changed with the April launch of The Handmaid's Tale, which is part of what Erwich described as an effort to transition Hulu "off the arts and entertainment pages and onto the culture pages," where rivals Netflix and Amazon regularly appear.

Handmaid's Tale, which scored an early second-season renewal, is a key driver in that mission. To that end, the streamer recently handed out series orders to House of Cards creator Beau Willimon's space drama The First as well as Marvel's buzzy Runaways and J.J. Abrams and Stephen King anthology Castle Rock. At its NewFront in New York earlier this month, Hulu also officially unveiled its live TV service and announced it would share SVOD rights with NBC on This Is Us, the fall's No. 1 new series.

Hulu's increased focus on content comes as rival Netflix has been spending billions of dollars per year on original fare — be it scripted, unscripted, docs or comedy specials — and continues to hire some of the industry's top executives. For its part, Amazon has been making a strong push for quality, too, recently doling out straight-to-series orders for dramas from David O. Russell (American Hustle) and Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner.

Hulu, which has moved away from reporting subscribers, announced at its upfront that it has 47 million viewers, 32 million of whom watch via its ad-supported package. Last year it reported 12 million subscribers. A spokeswoman says that the company's base grew in the double digits last year. 

As for AMC and Sundance TV, a search is underway to find a new head of programming for both cable networks to replace Stillerman. In the interim, the heads of scripted, nonfiction and international co-productions/acquisitions will report to AMC and Sundance TV president Charlie Collier.

"It has been an absolute pleasure working with Joel Stillerman for the last near-decade," said Collier. "In addition to being an extremely talented programming executive, he's a truly good person, friend and valued colleague. Joel has played a major role in the transformation of AMC from a movie channel into an established leader in original programming. We wish him nothing but the best in his move to the West Coast, his future endeavors with our partner, Hulu, and — perhaps most challenging — his search to replace his New Jersey bowling team, the Emus, who will surely miss him as much as we will."