In the meantime, we can take a minute and give Kilar credit for building and maintaining an influential, important and valuable site many people pronounced dead as soon as it was born.
As Kilar himself notes, Hulu’s unofficial launch name was ClownCo, because any sensible person knew that there was no way Big Media companies could form a worthwhile joint venture, and zero chance they’d be able to create a decent video site. That’s the kind of thing that you left to the smart tech guys at places like Myspace, Veoh and Metacafe.
Surprise! Those guys are gone, and Kilar and his team ended up building a really great website, and then kept it up and running for 5 years, while generating real money by the end of his run. Meanwhile, the site’s value doubled, to $2 billion.
Sometime in 2008, after a particularly heavy weekend, I remember one of my housemates emerging from his darkened bedroom — eyes bloodshot and exhausted — with a confusing smile on his face.
"I just watched the first season of 'Arrested Development' non-stop for most of the day," he proudly remarked.
Noting that I was fairly unperturbed by his achievement, he added one simple — and, then, somewhat revolutionary — word to the end of his statement: "Legally."
As a student, Hulu was an unfathomable gift. Having watched as friends repeatedly received DMCA notices for pirating television seasons, Hulu suddenly appeared with the endorsement of the industry whose content it sought to share freely with the world.
Perhaps the service has fallen somewhat slack in light of the rise of Netflix, but, nevertheless, it remains one of the most memorable services I've ever had the pleasure of using.
And, as Kafka highlights, it was, indeed, a pleasure to use. Greeted by a fairly well-designed site and that smooth narratorial voice at the beginning of each episode, Hulu stood well apart from the pack and unquestionably paved the way for digital streaming into the lives of countless people in the United States. And, against the odds, Hulu still looks and behaves wonderfully well today.
Kilar was, without a doubt, given an extremely raw deal by Hulu's stakeholders. He was tasked with developing, launching, and sustaining a product that was otherwise destined for catastrophic failure. And, with this hand, Kilar did not resign himself to the obvious, but instead rose to the occasion and built an industry disrupting service.
Regardless of Hulu's issues — all of which are largely borne out of stakeholder issues — Kilar deserves plenty of praise for what he achieved with the service. Although I rarely use Hulu any more, I certainly feel indebted to Mr. Kilar and his team for all that they've achieved over the past six years.
More than that, I'm excited to see what such a talented and forward-thinking businessman might get up to next.