Mike Hopkins Exits Hulu, Will Fill Steve Mosko Void at Sony Pictures TV

Randy Freer, who currently serves on the Hulu board and has been president and COO of the Fox Networks Group since 2013, will take over as CEO at Hulu.
Tara Ziemba/WireImage; Courtesy of Fox
Mike Hopkins (left), Randy Freer

There's a major change at Hulu.

CEO Mike Hopkins is exiting the streaming platform and moving to Sony Pictures Television, where he will fill the role vacated by Steve Mosko. Hopkins will serve as chairman of the independent studio and start work in late November. He will report to Sony Pictures Entertainment chairman and CEO Tony Vinciquerra. Randy Freer, who currently serves on the Hulu board and has been president and COO of the Fox Networks Group since 2013, will take over as CEO at Hulu. He will be based in Hulu's Los Angeles headquarters and begin his new role on Monday.

“I’ve known Mike for years and can think of no better person to lead our television businesses during a time of such extraordinary evolution and opportunity,” Vinciquerra said Tuesday in a statement. “Mike is a proven and innovative leader who has played a key role in redefining today’s television landscape, both for consumers and for how content producers reach them. We are thrilled to have him at SPE to work alongside our deep bench of talent and lead our studio to even greater heights.”

With Hopkins' arrival at Sony TV, the studio will realign its reporting structure. The heads of SPT's domestic and international television production, distribution, advertiser sales and research, marketing and Sony Pictures Worldwide Networks will now report to Hopkins.

Hulu tapped Hopkins as CEO in 2013 following the departure of founding CEO Jason Kilar. At the time, Hulu’s owners — NBCUniversal, Disney and 21st Century Fox — had agreed not to sell it and instead cut a $750 million check to reinvest in the business. Hopkins, who had been a Hulu board member since 2011 through his role at Fox, was seen as an experienced operational executive who would be able to navigate Hulu’s complex corporate structure, which was much needed following Kilar’s history of disagreements with his traditional media bosses. 

"Leading Hulu for the past four years has been the single most meaningful experience of my career. It has been an enormous privilege to work with this vibrant, creative and fearless team to build Hulu into the success it is today,” Hopkins said in a statement from Hulu.

“Tony has long been a colleague and mentor of mine, and I’m really excited to join him and the rest of the talented team at SPE,” Hopkins said in a statement from Sony. “There is a tremendous opportunity to build on SPT’s momentum globally, and I look forward to working with the team to realize that potential. I want to thank Tony and Kaz for this incredible opportunity.”

Mosko abruptly exited Sony TV in June 2016 after a 24-year run. At the time, sources told The Hollywood Reporter that infighting with SPE CEO Michael Lynton led to his eventual departure. In January, Lynton exited the studio and was replaced by Vinciquerra. Following the shake-up, SPT co-presidents Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht were expected to be promoted to replace Mosko. When that didn't happen, the duo exited the studio to lead Apple's push into scripted originals. Jeff Frost was promoted in July to the new role of president of Sony Pictures Television Studios, the production side of Sony Pictures Entertainment's TV business. He reports to Vinciquerra. At the same time, Jason Clodfelter and Chris Parnell were upped to co-presidents of Sony Pictures Television Studios. They report to Frost.

In an era of vertical integration where broadcast networks largely buy from their sibling studios in a push for greater ownership control and profitability, Sony TV has had its work cut out for it and has had to largely focus on co-productions in order to get a show on the air. The studio recently celebrated the 100th episode of ABC's The Goldbergs after the family comedy was renewed for two additional seasons with a reduced license fee, sources say. The studio remains a powerful player, meanwhile, on the cable and streaming side with series including Netflix's The Crown, AMC's Better Call Saul and YouTube's upcoming Karate Kid sequel, Cobra Kai.

Hopkins, who immediately installed his own corporate team inside Hulu, has presided over a period of reinvention for the streamer. That investment from the owners was put largely toward building out an original content strategy for Hulu — the fruits of which can be seen in the eight Emmy wins (including becoming the first streamer to win best drama) for The Handmaid’s Tale this year — and investing in exclusive programming from other networks, including Seinfeld, The Golden Girls, This Is Us and Will & Grace. Hulu has also made changes to its offerings: It got rid of its free, ad-supported tier and introduced a new ad-free option. Earlier this year it launched a live television service that costs $40 per month.  
 
But Hulu remains a much smaller player in the streaming space than rivals Netflix or Amazon, in part because it is not offered internationally. Time Warner's 2016 investment in Hulu — in which it acquired a 10 percent stake — valued the company at $5.8 billion. Last year, it reported a subscriber base of 12 million, compared with 47 million U.S. subscribers at Netflix at the time. This year, it said it would stop reporting subscribers and instead focus on unique viewers, of which it had 47 million as of May. BTIG analyst Rich Greenfield estimates that Hulu, which has an annual content budget of $2.5 billion, lost $353 million during the first half of this year, compared to a loss of $195 million during the same period last year.
 
Freer, meanwhile, oversaw revenue, distribution, operations, business development and strategy for all aspects of the Fox Television Group, FX, Fox Sports and National Geographic Partners, and was responsible for rights acquisitions and team and league relationships on behalf of Fox Sports. 
 
“Hulu is at the center of transformation in entertainment. Hulu’s management team and employees have positioned Hulu to be a leader in defining the future of content creation, distribution and monetization — all while putting the viewer first. I’d like to thank Hulu’s board for this exciting opportunity,” Freer said. 

Freer takes over as CEO after former AMC exec Joel Stillerman joined Hulu in May as chief content officer. The streamer has been ramping up its original programming with several high-profile projects including The First, a space drama starring Sean Penn from House of Cards creator Beau Willimon, and Castle Rock, the J.J. Abrams-produced Stephen King anthology.
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