As we head into Yahoo’s shareholder meeting Thursday, Silicon Valley is buzzing about the potential chief executive candidate who said he’s not interested in the job: Hulu CEO Jason Kilar.
Why was he considered for Yahoo’s CEO role and why is he drawing so much Silicon Valley attention? Tech and Internet titans generally regard him as one of the best in the biz of making money on digital content distribution, which a number of them, from Google and Microsoft to Apple are trying to figure out right now.
Kilar has been at Hulu since its earliest days in 2007, joining from Amazon , where he was general manager of its North American Media business. Since then he’s grown Hulu to some 38 million monthly viewers, by being a master of tough relationships: with Madison Avenue, with content companies, and with its media giant parents. Hulu is co-owned by Disney , News Corp , and NBC Universal (parent company of CNBC), along with Providence Equity Partners.
Perhaps most important, Kilar has drawn more than 1,000 advertisers to Hulu, including all of Madison Avenue’s biggest names. Hulu ads are 90 percent more effective than traditional online video spots, thanks to close targeting, and an innovation called “Ad Swap,” which allows viewers to pick the spots they want me to see.
In an interview back in February Kilar told me this is just the beginning in his push to make Hulu “the world’s most effective video advertising service.” That means testing different ways to serve ads that are narrowly targeted based on viewing habits and consumption habits, and giving consumers more control over what they see.
Another reason Kilar is turning so many heads — in addition to advertising, he’s also figured out a subscription model. Hulu Plus, the $7.99 a month service, which also includes ads, drew more than 2 million subscribers in just 21 months.
Thanks in part to the new subscription business, Kilar helped Hulu grow revenue 60 percent from 2010 to 2011, to $420 million last year. Now the next frontier is original content: Kilar says Hulu will spend $500 million on content in 2012, part of that on original shows. Hulu has a ton of information about how and what people watch. We’ll see how Kilar uses that information to create “hits” for Hulu that could even be licensed elsewhere.
Will Kilar jump ship? The fact that he turned down the Yahoo job could indicate he plans to stay put for a while. He certainly sees a lot of potential in Hulu’s future.
Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com