Some analysts complain that Hulu’s
advertising base is not keeping pace with its
growing content, and content providers
reportedly are pressuring the company to
raise ad rates and start charging for some
But consider the numbers: nearly 30
million unique viewers and almost a billion
video views per month; more than $100
million in revenue last year.
Hulu did not get here in less than three
years by accident.
Protect the crown jewels
Kilar still talks about a trip to Walt Dis-
ney World when he was 10. Then living
near Pittsburgh, the family piled into their
12-passenger Chevy van for the drive
to Orlando. Much later, Jason would tell
The New York Times that what he noticed
most about the
Happiest Place on
Earth was that
“there wasn’t a gum
Hulu shows the
same maniacal attention to detail, starting
with the name. “Hulu” reportedly means
“holder of precious things” in Chinese
(more accurately, a gourd, but close enough).
It also happened to be one of the last four-
letter Internet domain names available in
2007. Kilar wanted the shortest possible
name. Every three-letter combination was
taken, and all English four-letter domain
names were gone, remembers star recruiter
Jim Citrin, who arranged the marriage
between Kilar and company founders Peter
Chernin, then CEO of FOX, and Jeff
Zucker, CEO of NBC.
needed to let him do what he thought was
right. It turned out to be the right decision.”
Zucker and Chernin met Kilar in the
spring of 2007, soon after deciding that if
they did not try to make money online
from their content, somebody else would.
“They could let it be pirated away or they
could do it themselves,” says Citrin, who was
asked to search for CEO candidates.
The search turned Kilar’s way after an
early board meeting of the new company,
then blandly named “NewSite.” Chernin
and Zucker realized they could not rely
just on the value of their video libraries,
which they called their “crown jewels.”
Chernin’s and Zucker’s insight was that
“unless the actual user experience is the
best on the Internet, all the assets, all the
exclusive programming is basically going to
amount to nothing,” Citrin recalls.
The CEO search became a hunt for
experts on the Inter-
net user experience.
Amazon was widely
considered the best
place to look. Enter
Kilar, who had
started Amazon’s video and DVD business
and who rose to senior vice president of
worldwide application software during a
nine-year career at the online retailer.
“We were blown away by his mindset,
which is so different. It was all about, does
it work for the consumer?” Citrin said.
At Kilar’s first meeting with Zucker and
Chernin, “they weren’t interviewing him.
It was more him advising them.”
Kilar grew up in Murrysville, a peaceful
suburb near Pittsburgh. His late father,
Lance, worked as an engineer for Westing-
house. His mother, “Mo,” short for Mau-
reen, wrote a humor column on parenting
for a local newspaper called “Enough Is Too
Six kids in eight years apparently were
not too much for the Kilars. Jason was the
fourth child and fourth boy. The oldest
boys, a pair of twins, were adopted, as was
the child after Jason.
Jason stood out by not standing out.
Where some of the other kids often disrupted the family homework period, Jason
had to be reminded to turn off his reading
even as he shared a room with brother
Kenny. “Jason was very focused. He was
not a fighter. He didn’t get into many
At the age of 8, Jason used his consider-
able artistic talent to advertise his lawn-
mowing services on index cards that he
dropped off at neighbors’ houses. Soon he
had more work than he could handle:
Rather than turn down business, he hired
the kid next door.
When he caught one of his older
brothers smoking, he accepted 25 cents in
exchange for his silence.
In adolescence, when other boys were
still watching cartoons, Jason also loved
Walt Disney — but the biographies of the