Hulu's rocky year of management turmoil is winding down. On Thursday evening, interim CEO Andy Forssell—who replaced Hulu's original CEO Jason Kilar when he left in March—announced to his staff at dinner that he was leaving the company, to be replaced by Mike Hopkins, president of Fox Networks Group. A few hours later, the news hit the press in reports by Bloomberg and Reuters.
According to an insider, the news is a relief to a morally depleted staff who are tired of all the uncertainty at the video streaming service, which is jointly owned by Fox, Disney, and Comcast. Those remaining have watched Hulu's original team walk out the door one by one. Most recently, Hulu's ad chief JP Colaco departed the video streaming service earlier this month.
Although Hopkins has no ad sales experience, he has a strong background in distribution, and has close ties with the cable and satellite operators who view Hulu as a major threat. Speculation is that the relationship between those carriers and Hulu will grow closer under his watch, and that Hulu will add pay-TV fees to complement its subscription and advertising revenue.
"Mike's bias is to maintain the pay TV industry," said one source. "I think we'll start to see Hulu work with (cable operators) in a more hand-in-hand way as opposed to a competitive way going forward."
This has always been the desire of Fox, whose Hulu board members had a testy relationship with Kilar, an outspoken visionary who was intent to let Hulu operate autonomously. Kilar battled to have fewer ads on the site and to maintain shorter windows for content, but was ultimately overrun by Hulu's owners, Fox in particular.
Hopkins is described as someone who will play well with Hulu's owners—don't expect any blog posts lambasting them, as Kilar once famously did—and bring stability to the company.
Other executives that were discussed as possible replacements for Forssell—who, like Kilar, wanted to run Hulu with greater independence from its owners—include Albert Cheng, head of digital media at Disney; and Sling Media cofounder Blake Krikorian.
With top management in place, now Hulu's owners just need to agree on the company's strategy going forward. Fox and Disney have historically differed over how much leeway to give Hulu in the digital space, with Fox being far more aggressive about protecting its core businesses. (Comcast has a non-controlling interest in Hulu via NBC.) Though over the summer, they showed a unity in thinking when they decided to take Hulu off the block and invest $750 million in it.
[Image: Flickr user Casey Muir-Taylor]