It's been a good year for Hulu. Despite a lot of noise about a possible IPO and some hand-wringing over whether or not Jason Kilar would keep his post as CEO (there wasn't one, and he did), the company has made quite a bit of money, and it's taking a little time off this week to crow about it.
"In 2012, we will close the year with approximately $695 million in revenue. Hulu’s revenues will have grown over 65 percent, which is an acceleration over 2011 growth levels," posted Kilar on the company blog. The company's finances are indeed in good shape as it closes out the year; it's been busy getting its app distributed on every platform imaginable, from the brand-new Wii U to the iPad to (finally) Android, including Samsung's Galaxy series.
Less noisily, though, Hulu has been walking back its free offerings over the last year, keeping the lion's share of its new content behind the paywall and requiring a Facebook sign-in (or site login credentials) for "mature" content. It's a successful strategy.The video site now has a full 3 million Hulu Plus subscribers and is looking to attract more with an ever-expanding library, soon to include old episodes of shows like The Twilight Zone and Star Trek after the streaming service's long-awaited deal with CBS—the only major network that didn't have any full-length content at all on Hulu (current CBS shows are still not available on Hulu in-season).
Kilar bragged that Hulu has enjoyed a 28 percent uptick in its number of advertisers (he kept mum on any movement in ad revenue numbers).That growth was attributed to the company's aggressive policing of its own data—like an increasing number of publishers, Hulu charges for ads only on completion.
Still, in many respects, the future remains uncertain at Hulu. Variety reported that Kilar stood to gain an impressive sum if he chose to leave (that paper's Andrew Wallenstein estimated the package at $100 million) when Providence Equity Partners cashed out its 10 percent stake this year for a reported $200 million. So change at that top is always a possibility, but the remaining partners—all of whom, notably, have a significant IP stake in Hulu's success, as well as a literal financial stake—declined to take the streaming service private (another rumor).
So it seems likely that the video portal will remain an increasingly less awkward no-man's-land between three major competitors—News Corp., Disney and NBCUniversal. If anything, the arrival of CBS on the scene seems to indicate that however distasteful it may be to partner with your rivals, it's far less distasteful to turn away the kind of money that Hulu is raking in.