by Timothy Geigner

Filed Under:
jason kilar, ownership, videos


Hulu Continues To Wobble Along That Fine Line Between Success And Failure As CEO Bails

from the looking-kind-of-bad dept

If one were to make a short list of the top great ideas that were implimented horribly, unbelievably wrong, Hulu would have to be somewhere between The View and the United Nations (I'll let you decide what goes where, exactly). Hulu was the once promising entertainment venture that has ugly-morphed its way into a mere excuse for entertainment studios to claim they offer people what they want. All the while there's been some discussion about whether or not the studios that own Hulu are purposefully trying to tank it to keep people from cutting the cable cord. And throughout all of this, Hulu has never really caught on with the same kind of fevered pitch as Netflix or even Amazon for streaming service customers.

Reader Vidiot writes in about a Business Insider piece detailing all the reasons why Hulu may have one foot in the grave and the other foot hovering just over it. Amongst the less-than-awesome facts on Hulu's list are items such as a new request for $200 Million from investors, reported losses of $30 Million per quarter, and that Hulu is trying to compete against Netflix while spending one-tenth the money on original content and one-ninth the paid subscriber base. The article announces that because of all that, it's time to conclude that Hulu is a failure, but don't blame corporate leadership.
The fact is (CEO Jason) Kilar had an almost impossible job from the very beginning. Hulu doesn't own the content it distributes, so it only gets to keep a small portion of its revenues. Hulu is, in fact, owned by the companies that own said content. And those owners have little incentive to create healthy margins for Hulu at the expense of their own. The fact is, Kilar has, in a couple years, built a Web brand that you have heard of. Yes, this was done on the back of free TV and a big marketing budget. But it's still decently impressive.
I'm not sure how we went from failure to impressive in less than a hundred words (which is impressive, by the by), but I am sympathetic to Hulu's raw deal from the studios that own it -- something Mike has been pointing out for nearly four years. That said, I don't think Hulu is a failure that is so far failed that it can't be brought back from fail-dom. After all, I've heard that Justin Timberlake is taking some time away from bringing sexy back to work on bringing Myspace back and if that mess of a social network can rise from the internet grave, Hulu can too.

But whoever is going to try to bring Hulu back from the prep-coffin, it appears it isn't going to be the afore mentioned Jason Kilar, because he's decided to bail. By all accounts, Kilar tried, really tried to make this thing work, but despite some successes it's not wrong to say that Hulu hasn't turned out to be what some folks thought it would. Given the raw deal that Hulu has gotten, the conflicts of interest heading up the company, I don't blame Kilar one bit for leaving. Hulu needs to innovate despite its issues, or else we can get the funeral march going.

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  • identicon
    Mark Leiser, 11 Jan 2013 @ 4:17pm

    Hulu Hoops

    Hulu's problem is that it is the, well, problem. I don't know how many times I have clicked on a video, after being sent a link to watch something from my Yankee friends, only to be blocked from watching it because I live in the UK. In the end I do the very thing that Hulu was meant to solve: I go look for the clip on another site, likely uploaded illegally infringing its owners' copyright. Why can't an American in the UK watch the clip from SNL that all their pals are talking about? Trying to control content by jurisdiction is just stupid and doesn't work. Watching videos is meant to be easy; the viewer is not meant to go through hulu hoops (sorry!) to view content, yet they give users incentives to go look for the same content elsewhere.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2013 @ 4:44pm

    Hm.... the studios create a company that would make money, but then charge it huge amounts and ensure it never makes a profit. Where have I heard that one before?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PlagueSD (profile), 11 Jan 2013 @ 4:45pm

    That's what all the big media companies are missing. They're still living in the 70's & 80's where distribution windows still worked. The "global" internet didn't exist yet.

    Now that everyone has friends all over the world thanks to social media sites, these distribution windows fail. Just look what happened with NBC's coverage of the Olympics...They thought it would be better to "Tape delay" the events so they could show them at prime-time. They forgot about social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. The News media was reporting on who won what medal the very next morning from the previous night's events. Watching the Olympics was a BIG waste of time since everyone already knew the results before NBC even aired the event.

    Once these big media companies wake up and realize they are the problem, and not illegal downloaders, all these problems will go away. Problem is, that will NEVER happen.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2013 @ 4:46pm

    What is myspace?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    weneedhelp - not signed in, 11 Jan 2013 @ 5:09pm

    Who lu?

    Ya know watching this stuff is insanity. Even services they "approve" of they try to kill.

    Tech company after tech company have provided them countless outlets to distribute content and yet they strangle every one of them. Their self destructive behavior and short sightedness have done more to drive ppl to illegal outlets than anything the "Mega's" of the world have done.

    The best thing for artists, consumers and the general public will be for these old dinosaurs to just die off so the next systems can grow from the ashes.

    The system now supports legalized slavery, and although those artists enter in to it of their own free will, it is still slavery nonetheless.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ShellMG, 11 Jan 2013 @ 7:33pm

    Regional Stupidity

    My husband rented a movie from Redbox. He tried to play it on the BD player cabled to our TV (it's an uber-cheap player, which could be part of the problem) but it kept freezing at a certain point a few minutes. H asked me to put it in my rig's BD player to make sure it worked. After downloading and installing the demanded software update for the player, I had to choose a region and could only change it a maximum of 5 times. It's 2013 and our government is STILL so digitally inept we're forced to deal with idiotic region regulations??

    I never want to see than damn DVD again. It reconfirmes my outright loathing of DMCA, born when my purchased Wall-E wouldn't play in my computer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Jan 2013 @ 7:51pm

    Hulu has no commercial-free option

    When Hulu was asked whether there would ever be a price point that they would offer commercial-free video -- like Netflix, Amazon, or even HBO -- they said, no, never. For folks like me who have successfully eliminated nearly all advertising from life, that's a deal breaker.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Aria Company (profile), 11 Jan 2013 @ 7:52pm

    Hulu's only reason for existing is so its owners can run to the government and say "See! We tried and it failed! Pass more laws."

    Anyone who thinks this is a streaming service is fooling themselves.

    When the CEO makes public statements the owners are tying his hands, that's a warning sign.

    Well, I suppose the owners won't need to worry about those messages anymore.

    Rich Tom is also leaving.

    Rats + sinking ship. Grab the popcorn. This is going to be better than the movie Titanic.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Torg (profile), 12 Jan 2013 @ 6:57am

    Hulu isn't dying because it has one-ninth the subscribers of Netflix. That's a symptom. Hulu is dying because its competition has a paid option worth nine times as much as Hulu's. When you're asked to pay for the privilege of watching more ad-supported content, you feel like you're being ripped off.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Thomas (profile), 12 Jan 2013 @ 4:31pm

    The studios

    don't want Hulu to be successful.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Christopher Best (profile), 14 Jan 2013 @ 7:03am

    Hulu Isn't Dead, Isn't a Failure

    Despite absolutely hostile owners trying at every turn to sink it, Hulu has managed to put together a service millions of people find useful and grew its revenues by 65% last year.

    You (and I, to a lesser extent), may not like advertising on something you pay for, but many people are willing to put up with it. Especially if the service offers convenience.

    The CEO has worked a miracle considering all the obstacles he had to overcome, and I'm really looking forward to seeing what his next project is.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 14 Jan 2013 @ 8:13am

    Hulu Plus doesn't work on Google TV

    Why doesn't Hulu Plus work on Google TV?

    Android is one of the biggest and most successful new mobile platforms around. Google TV is based on Android.

    Netflix for example works on my mobile phone, my tablet and my Google TV. Similar for YouTube. TedTalks app. Many other non-video apps in the Play store.

    Hulu doesn't even work on some versions of Android. Plenty of mobile phones that are current in the mobile 18-month to two year upgrade cycle cannot run Hulu Plus.

    There are workarounds. But I should not have to fight a battle to get a legally purchased service to work on all of my legal devices. It should just work.

    Gee, I wonder if there are any other ways to get TV shows to play in my living room?

    BTW, we will be getting rid of cable TV in the next month or so. There is nothing to watch. Once great cable channels are full of crap. Higher end channels that replaced them are also now full of the same crap. But no higher-higher-end channels to replace them are in sight. Unless you count non-cable alternatives:

    * Netflix (current subscriber)
    * Redbox Instant (comming soon)
    * Amazon Prime (will probably try it soon)
    * Hulu Plus (current subscriber)
    * Blockbuster (thinking about it)

    There are lots of legal set top media players, of different kinds. More and more new Google TV boxes. But others like Roku, Boxy, etc, and all of the major game consoles.

    The only question is whether the legal content will follow, or if it will try to stick with an obsolete "cable" "channels" and "time slots" with "release windows" system from a previous millennium long ago swept away in the sands of time.

    There are also the not so legal set top boxes like this one. One critic asked Who pays to produce the content on that box?. I would say "the people who won't make it legally available for people to watch. That's who. They are leaving money on the table. But at least, they're keeping the content safe and secure from being watched.

    It's interesting that I can watch Hulu Plus on any of my computers. Or tablets. Netbook. But not in my living room or on my phone.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jan 2013 @ 8:49am

    I liked what Hulu was doing. Too bad Hollywood is desperate to kill it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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