Hulu CEO Jason Kilar to Exit

Jason Kilar - Hulu LLC News Conference - H - 2011
Bloomberg/Getty Images

UPDATED: The head of the streaming video site says in an email to staff that he will leave sometime in the first quarter of 2013.

Jason Kilar, CEO of digital content platform Hulu for more than five years, will resign his post before March 31 along with chief technology officer Rich Tom.

Kilar announced the moves in an e-mail sent to Hulu employees Friday and posted on his blog.

Kilar's decision comes three weeks after Hulu -- an entity derided in its early days as ClownCo because skeptics doubted its ability to make money from TV shows delivered via the Internet -- reported a 65 percent surge in year-over-year revenue to $695 million in 2012. 

A month before that Hulu -- a joint venture of ABC, Fox and NBCUniversal -- purchased Providence Equity Partner's 10 percent stake for $200 million, a price that valued the entire company at about $2 billion and represented a $40 million payday to Kilar personally, according to Bloomberg.

In his letter and blog post Friday, Kilar did not say why he or Tom were leaving or who would take their places. But industry watchers had speculated for months that Kilar's departure was imminent, with reports surfacing recently that Kilar wanted access to more money in order to license more content, the price of which has soared thanks to aggressive bidding from Netflix.

Insiders also suggest that Kilar was under pressure to switch from a growth strategy to one that focused on near-term profitability and that even Hulu's mainstream-media partners weren't in total agreement over which was the better strategy. On Thursday, BTIG analyst Richard Greenfield predicted that in 2013 Fox, owned by News Corp., would buy out its partners to own 100 percent of Hulu.

News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch, in fact, endorsed Hulu in a statment issued Friday. "Jason and his team have done a great job building Hulu into one of the leading online video services available today and it's incredibly well positioned for the road ahead," Murdoch said.

Also weighing on the company were on-again, off-again plans for an initial public offering and pressures from some circles to seek a buyer for the company.

Hulu declined The Hollywood Reporter's request for response.

"I’ve been so fortunate to play a role in this amazing, ongoing journey," Kilar wrote Friday. "My decision to depart has been one of the toughest I’ve ever made."

Kilar's entire blog post follows:

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…