Unicorns 26/229 – Hulu
Founders: Elizabeth Comstock, Jason Kilar
Key people: Mike Hopkins (CEO)
Number of employees: ~380
Hulu (stylized as hulu) is an American subscription video on demand service owned by Hulu LLC, a joint venture with The Walt Disney Company (through Disney–ABC Television Group) (30%), 21st Century Fox (through Fox Entertainment Group) (30%), Comcast (through NBCUniversal) (30%), and as of August 10, 2016, Time Warner (through Turner Broadcasting System) (10%, minority stake).
It is primarily oriented towards television series, carrying current and past episodes of series from its owners’ respective television networks and other content partners. It was previously divided into free and paid tiers, with the free service limited in the amount of content accessible by users and accessible via PC only, and a paid service with a larger library of content and accessed via Hulu applications for various mobile and connected devices. The subscription service is, in turn, divided into advertising-supported and mostly ad-free tiers. In 2016, Hulu spun out its free content into a joint venture with Yahoo! called Yahoo! View and launched a live television streaming service on May 3, 2017.
Hulu is offered only to users in Japan and the United States and its overseas territories.
Key executives instrumental in the founding of Hulu includ e Bruce Campbell, Peter Chernin, JB Perrette, Michael Lang, Beth Comstock and Jason Kilar. The venture was announced in March 2006 with AOL, Comcast, Facebook, MSN, Myspace, and Yahoo! planned as “initial distribution partners”. Kilar was named the CEO in June 2006.
The name Hulu was chosen in late August 2007, when the website went live, with an announcement only and no content. It invited users to leave their email addresses for the upcoming beta test. In October, Hulu began the private beta testing by invitation, and later allowed users to invite friends. Hulu launched for public access in the United States on March 12, 2008. The first product to launch was the HULU Syndication network, which was designed and developed by the NBC Universal team from New York, on October 29, 2007, followed by the Hulu.com destinations site.
Hulu began an advertising campaign during NBC’s broadcast of Super Bowl XLIII with an initial ad starring Alec Baldwin titled “Alec in Huluwood”. The ad intended to humorously reveal “the shocking secret behind Hulu”, portraying the site as being an “evil plot to destroy the world” by suggesting that Baldwin is really an alien in disguise. Advertisements have since aired featuring Eliza Dushku, Seth MacFarlane, Denis Leary, and Will Arnett.
In July 2007, Providence Equity Partners, the owner of Newport Television, became one of the earliest “outside” investors by purchasing a 10 percent stake in the company for US$100 million equity investment, before the company was known as “Hulu”. With its investment came a seat on the board of directors, where Providence was said to act as an “independent voice on the board”. In October 2012, Providence sold its 10 percent stake to “Hulu’s media owners” and ceased participation in the board.
Early in 2010, Hulu chief executive Jason Kilar said the service had made a profit in two quarters and that the company could top $100 million in revenue by summer 2010, more than its income for all of 2009. ComScore says monthly video streams reached 903 million in January 2010, over three times the figure for a year earlier, and second only to YouTube.
On August 16, 2010, a report revealed that Hulu was planning an Initial Public Offering (IPO) which could value the company at more than $2 billion.
On June 21, 2011, The Wall Street Journal reported that an “unsolicited offer” caused Hulu to begin “weighing whether to sell itself.” On October 13, 2011 however, Hulu and its owners announced that they would not sell the company, as none of the bidders offered an amount that was satisfactory to its owners.
It was reported that in 2011, Hulu made $420 million. The figure was $80 million short of the predicted revenue. The vacant CEO post was officially filled by former Fox Networks President Mike Hopkins on October 17, 2013.