WarnerMedia Entertainment April 1 named Jason Kilar as its CEO. Kilar, former founding CEO of Hulu, begins his position on May 1, reporting to COO John Stankey.
Kilar’s resume involving streaming video will be key as WarnerMedia, whose assets include Warner Bros., HBO and Turner, launches HBO Max in May. He ran Hulu from 2007 to 2013.
Indeed, with Max the cornerstone of WarnerMedia’s distribution focus in the near term as theatrical remains shuttered due to the coronavirus, Kilar’s experience launching Hulu will be key.
“Our team led by Bob Greenblatt, Ann Sarnoff, Gerhard Zeller and Jeff Zucker has done an amazing job establishing our brands as leaders in the hearts and minds of consumers,” Stankey said in a statement. “Adding Jason to the talented WarnerMedia family as we launch HBO Max in May gives us the right management to strategically position our leading portfolio of brands, world-class talent and rich library of intellectual property for future growth.”
Kilar, 48, was CEO of Hulu from its launch in 2007 until 2013. Before that, he held several leadership positions at Amazon from 1997 to 2006, including SVP of Worldwide Application Software.
His voluntary departure from Hulu surprised analysts, including Richard Greenfield, now with Lightshed Partners. “He’s done an amazing job!” Greenfield wrote at the time.
Miller Tabak analyst David Joyce “assumed” Kilar would stay at Hulu during the transition, while portfolio manager Larry Haverty thought Kilar could move on to “bigger things.”
Instead, Kilar launched video streaming service Vessel, a wannabe YouTube service, which enabled viewers for a $3 monthly fee, exclusive access to new videos 72 hours before they were released in other channels. Vessel was acquired by Verizon, which shuttered the platform in 2016.
Additionally, Kilar served as a board member at DreamWorks Animation (2013-2016) and Univision Communications (2016-2020). He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and business from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and an MBA from Harvard Business School.