Hulu has named content chief Andy Forssell, interim CEO, replacing Jason Kilar, who is leaving at the end of the month.
We predicted Mr. Forssell would get the job because when we last checked in on the process, Hulu hadn't conducted a formal search, and the cloudy future of the video service would make it difficult to recruit a top-notch outside candidate.
Mr. Kilar is leaving the company, which he bootstrapped, named and led to improbable success, navigating the interests of joint-venture owners who are invested in Hulu but also see it as competitive with their core TV business.
Mr. Forssell was one of the service's earliest employees and is the obvious internal candidate; he's well-liked by staff and Hulu's content partners. But as Mr. Kilar notes in his blog post, Walt Disney Co. and News Corp. are still hashing out Hulu's future. The fact that he was named "interim" CEO indicates they are not far enough along in their search to know who they'd like their CEO to be.
It also probably means they're not far enough along to convince an outside candidate that they'll fund Hulu at a level so it could compete with the increasingly-powerful Netflix, which also happens to be a more lucrative outlet for the companies' content. At the same time, Hulu will be a billion-dollar business this year, the first real internet success story born out of broadcast TV, so Disney and News Corp. would be loath to neuter it, sell it or shut it down.
So the real decision isn't who's named interim CEO; it's the strategic plan for Hulu's future, which is all about how the networks decide to move their own businesses forward on the web and outside the lucrative broadcast/cable TV system. And when that happens, things really get interesting.
In the meantime, here's Jason Kilar's memo:
As you all know, I will be departing Hulu at the end of this quarter. I wanted to share the news that Andy Forssell will be stepping up to lead Hulu as acting CEO after I depart later this month. You know Andy well; he's been a critical senior executive and has been here from the start of this great adventure. Andy exemplifies the Hulu culture and has been central to Hulu's journey, helping to grow this company from 2 content partners and no revenue to over 450 content partners and approximately $700 million revenue in 2012. In his role, Andy has built strong relationships with many of our Board members. Andy has the Board's strong support in leading the team during this important time.
Disney and News Corporation are currently finalizing their forward-looking plans with Hulu, and the senior team has been working closely with them in that process. Once the plans are finalized, a permanent decision will be made regarding the CEO position.
As I mentioned to you all at the beginning of this year, Hulu's focus remains on delivering a fantastic 2013 for customers and shareholders. Hulu is well on its way, with new records being set in Q1 across both revenue and subscriber additions. The unwavering focus on delighting Hulu's customers is clearly showing up in the outputs of the business.