Will Hulu's Kilar be able to face down his bully bosses?

Jim O'Neil

editor's corner
LAS VEGAS--It's never good to be the smartest kid on the block; there are bullies who try to take your lunch money lurking at every corner. Just ask Hulu CEO Jason Kilar, who has to be sweating bullets and holding tight to his change as his content agreements with NBC, ABC and Fox get set to expire this summer.

There hasn't been much news about how the new contract talks are going, which has to make you wonder if they're going at all, because there's never any lack of unnamed sources in Hollywood willing to talk to the media when it comes to the networks and Hulu.

The problem, points out the L.A. Times, is that Hulu has been too popular with viewers-the Hulu Plus premium service is on track to reach 1 million subscribers this year and is estimating it'll reach $500 million in revenue.

Those are great numbers in the online video world, but for the networks-who see only about $100 million of that each-it's a pittance.

But Hulu's modest success is making the networks nervous. They're nervous because, while a million subscribers isn't much to a business like Tinseltown, which prefers to count viewers in the tens of millions and up, it's a heck of a lot more than Hulu Plus started with; its growth curve has been phenomenal since it came out of beta late last year, perhaps unrivaled.

And Kilar is dying to push Hulu's model further. He wants some original content, he's looking to get more catalog content, and, without question, he's sure to want more live event content.

Will he get it?

The owners--NBC, Media Corp. and Disney--are sitting on the fence... again. They're not sure if Hulu is cannibalizing their viewership, they're not sure if it's costing them ad revenue, and they're really not sure if they can keep Hulu under their thumbs if it continues to gain popularity.

Back in February, when Kilar posted a blog that essentially said, "Traditional TV: RIP," conversation centered on, "When does Kilar pack his bags?"

But you never send the smartest kid in the class packing, he's the one who leaves. Then he comes back, becomes your boss, and sends you packing.-Jim

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