Nine months after Hulu's founding CEO Jason Kilar said he was leaving the streaming video service, the company has found a permanent successor in 21st Century Fox executive Mike Hopkins.
The announcement, which came Thursday afternoon, comes a week after news broke that the company was close to hiring Mr. Hopkins, a deal maker charged with securing arrangements with TV carriers as well as on-demand and digital services. He had been Fox Networks Group's president of distribution.
"After an extensive search, Mike was simply the best candidate for the job," said Anne Sweeney, co-chairman, Disney Media Networks and president, Disney/ABC Television Group. Disney co-owns Hulu with Fox and Comcast (which gave up voting rights at Hulu in order to get government approval to buy original co-owner NBC Universal). "He has a strong understanding of programming, digital distribution and consumer behavior, and a great vision for Hulu's next chapter,"
Mr. Hopkins' appointment puts Hulu's leadership on solid ground after more than half a year of being in limbo and another flirtation by its owners with selling the company. But the hire also raises new questions.
Hulu also said Thursday that Andy Forssell, senior VP-content, is leaving the company, as All Things D reported last week. Mr. Forssell had served as interim CEO since March and said earlier this month that Hulu was on track to approach $1 billion in revenue for 2013. The company recorded $695 million last year and averages 30 million unique viewers each month, including four million who subscribe to its paid service Hulu Plus.
During his seven-month tenure at the top, Hulu had secured content syndication deals with 21st Century Fox, BBC Worldwide North America and Jim Henson Family TV. It also rolled out original series like "The Awesomes" co-created by Saturday Night Live star Seth Meyers.
But originals only account for 5% of viewing on Hulu, Mr. Forssell said at the Interactive Advertising Bureau's MIXX conference last month. He added that the share is expected to rise to 10% to 15%.
The changes at the top come within roughly a month of two top sales execs departing.
Mr. Hopkins gave little indication of his plans in an email sent to Hulu's employees earlier today:
Hello Hulu -
While I have been on the Hulu board for a few years and have worked with some of you before in that capacity, I am thrilled to be joining the Hulu team as the new CEO. The official announcement will be going out shortly, but I wanted to make sure to share the news directly with you all first.
I want to thank Andy Forssell for his incredible work and tremendous leadership. His imprint on the company is, and always will be, immeasurable.
I am really excited about my new role. You are a remarkable team. You have built a product and brand that has earned its place among the top tier of consumer technology companies. You have built a product and service that your customers (users, content owners, and advertisers) simply love.
People love Hulu because the product is fantastic. This is a testament to the engineering excellence and product development focus that is so much a part of the DNA here at Hulu. You continue to innovate every day. For these reasons, and so many others, I am proud to be a part of the next chapter for Hulu.
The fact is, through all the recent uncertainty not only have you kept this business together, but you've continued to deliver on every key performance metric. In fact, you are delivering one of the strongest years Hulu has ever seen: We expect revenues to be close to a billion dollars this year, and Hulu Plus subscribers continue to climb.
With the foundation you have built, the significant capital infusion of three quarters of a billion dollars, and our partners aligned and fully supportive of what we need to get it done, the sky is the limit for Hulu. I am looking forward to working with you all.
I can't wait to get started and meet you all in person.