Hulu proved in just nine months of operation in 2008 that consumers and advertisers are hungry for premium programming on the Web. The NBC Universal-News Corp. online video venture ended the year with more than 100 major brands advertising against content from more than 130 programming partners.
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The site’s CEO, Jason Kilar, said the company has been ahead of its own ad expectations since launch, a noteworthy accomplishment in the plummeting ad economy. “While the whole macro environment is different than six months ago, we are in the fortunate position where our business is growing month over month and we are bullish,” he said.
That bullishness is based on rapid growth. By October, Hulu was reaching 24 million unique users with 235 million video streams each month, according to comScore.
Hulu keeps its revenue figures close to the vest, but research firm Screen Digest predicts Hulu will generate $175 million in ad revenue in 2009, up from $70 million last year.
“The single biggest driver has been word of mouth,” Mr. Kilar said, explaining that conversational chatter about the service on blogs and Twitter rose in the fall. Hulu also got a lift from presidential election-related videos, including Tina Fey’s Sarah Palin spoofs and the presidential debates themselves, which were streamed on the site.
But Hulu also has stockpiled premium providers. Since launch, the Web video portal has added to its stable of partners via deals with Viacom to carry its cable programming, such as Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” and “The Colbert Report,” and with MGM, Sony Pictures Television and other programmers.
Hulu still lacks TV shows from CBS and ABC, however.
“We continue to have conversations with all the content owners, and we are in this for the long haul,” Mr. Kilar said. “I would love to have them on the site. My hope is to look back on 2009 and add a tremendous amount of content users care about.”
AT A GLANCE
Name: Jason Kilar
Title: CEO of Hulu
Year of birth: 1971
Place of birth: Pittsburgh
What to watch for: Hulu carries TV shows and movies from more than 130 content providers including NBC, Fox, Sony and MGM, but can it bring network holdouts ABC and CBS on board in 2009?
Who knew? A University of North Carolina grad, Mr. Kilar describes himself as a hopeless addict of the school’s basketball program.