After a reasonably successful early half of his career, Kilar was thrust into the leadership position at Hulu. He had a hit, but part of a dysfunctional family. With Vessel having missed the mark, Kilar is aiming for vengeance to prove that Hulu wasn’t a fluke, but could have been more.
Some executives and entrepreneurs are like athletes and entertainers, driven to prove themselves and the naysayers wrong. I’ve never met Jason, but WatchMojo was amongst the first to launch on Hulu (and possibly the first digital content producer). Hulu was by all measures a success, despite being greeted as Clown Co when it launched.
Sure, “failures are orphans but success has many parents,” Hulu was born into a dysfunctional family: the NBC/FOX offspring meant it had a competitive advantage out of the gates, but was also hampered in its long term potential. FWIW, Hulu is second fiddle to Disney+ within the Disney empire – while it was nurtured within the NBC / FOX empires.
Kilar took another stab at digital video with Vessel, which like Quibi sought to create premium short-form content. Ultimately, Verizon bought Vessel to bolster its pre-Quibi like offering, Go90. Neither had the outcome he was hoping, but in Kilar’s own intrapreneurial development and journey, understanding how a big telco like Verizon viewed content probably helped him better navigate Warner Media within AT&T. To Verizon, content was a distraction; for AT&T – who bet $100B of debt on Time Warner – its become ground zero for the fight for its future.
At WarnerMedia, he is playing with arguably the best hand he’s ever been dealt, and during a brave new DTC world.
Jason has shown his mastery of management and corporate battlegrounds, recognizing that to a traditional media stalwart like Time Warner, he may not have been able to pull off what he did today… to embrace DTC even if just for a year (sure).
But within the AT&T umbrella, given its resources, prioritizes and SWOT positioning, this was the obvious path to take. While traditional studios needed treaters in the “old” (aka pre-covid) times, let’s face it, AT&T does not. Seeing Disney propel Disney+ into the stratosphere while Netflix edges close to 200 million subscribers made today’s decision a bit of a no-brainer. In our WatchMojo poll on YouTube, we surveyed our community of 40 million subscribers and got 143,000 votes in!
Not surprisingly, our audience of movie-crazed fans indicated being comfortable “now.” But for HBO Max to catch up to the mighty mouse and formidable duo (Ted and Reed), then maybe Kilar may be on the right track.
Read Jason’s thoughts in his Q&A with VOX‘s Peter Kafka and a couple of my recent articles on how Covid is redrawing the media map and how old media’s emphasis on “digital pennies” created competitors commanding trillion dollar market caps.