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Cable Technology Feature Article

October 17, 2013

FOX Exec Dances Into Hulu as New CEO

By Tara Seals, TMCnet Contributor

Online TV streamer Hulu (News - Alert).com has finally appointed a new CEO, former head of distribution at FOX, Mike Hopkins. He takes over for Andy Forssell, who has been acting CEO since the departure of founding CEO Jason Kilar in March.

Hulu has of course been surrounded in uncertainty ever since Kilar’s exit, as its Big Media owners, FOX and Disney (News - Alert) (Comcast/NBCUniversal is a silent partner), have mulled the future for the company. Despite good growth metrics—Hopkins mentioned that revenue is expected to be “close to a billion dollars,” which is not a phrase one casually hears everyday—apparently the owners are split on how to proceed. Disney wants to focus on ad dollars, while FOX prefers to ramp up subscriptions to grow the company, according to reports in Bloomberg (News - Alert) and the Wall Street Journal.

Hulu put itself up for sale earlier in the year, drawing bids that fell short of the $2 billion it was hoping for, event hough bidders included heavy hitters like DirecTV (News - Alert), Yahoo and Time Warner Cable.  The owners opted to fund the company with a combined $750 million investment instead.

But Hopkins painted a rosy outlook. “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,” he said, writing in an employee blog. “In fact, you are delivering one of the strongest years Hulu has ever seen.”

He also indicated that the reports of dissention among the leadership are incorrect. “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.”

While president of distribution at FOX, he oversaw the distribution strategy, sales and marketing for Fox's 45 linear and non-linear U.S. channels, as well as on-demand and digital extensions. He also oversaw the development of various authenticated and digital video products, including BTN2GO and Fox Now. The fact that he has a distribution background could indicate that an original content strategy will be central to Hulu going forward—suggesting a continued focus on the Hulu Plus subscription portion of the service.

“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,” he wrote ahead of an official announcement. “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.”

Edited by Rachel Ramsey

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