As reported, Hulu has struck a deal to make former Fox Networks Group president of distribution Mike Hopkins its new CEO, effective immediately. Less expectedly, interim CEO Andy Forssell will leave the business he's run for the past six months after serving as the company's head of content. Forssell has overseen quite a few changes at Hulu recently, including the introduction of a broad slate of originals and co-productions unveiled at its upfront earlier this year.
Hulu is the most traditional and TV-like of the new wave of digital networks that includes Netflix, over-the-top service (and perpetual litigant) Aereo, and, increasingly, portals like AOL, Yahoo and YouTube. This year's NewFront ad buyer presentation was easily the slickest of a disparate (and disorganized) lot, but speculation about instability among stakeholders has made many in the market wary.
If nothing else, the choice of Hopkins to lead the company suggests that Disney and 21st Century might not, in fact, starve trying to order a pizza together (NBCU is barred from making management decisions as a condition of its merger with Comcast)—the appointment from within of a new CEO bodes well for the decision-making abilities of the joint venture's partners.
“After an extensive search, Mike was simply the best candidate for the job," said Anne Sweeney, co-chairman, Disney media networks and president, Disney/ABC television group. "He has a strong understanding of programming, digital distribution and consumer behavior, and a great vision for Hulu’s next chapter."
What that vision will consist of remains to be seen—the company's The Awesomes premiered recently with a sponsorship (Jack Link's) behind it, and it's set to roll out more originals in the coming months. But the departure of Forssell isn't exactly a ringing endorsement of the original content strategy.
“On behalf of the Hulu board I want to thank Andy Forssell for his leadership during this past year, and for the vital role he played in building Hulu into the amazing product it is today," said Fox Networks Group chairman and CEO Peter Rice. "We wish him the best on his next venture."
Whatever Hopkins has planned, he'll certainly have the cash to do it: "With the foundation you have built, the significant capital infusion of three quarters of a billion dollars, and our partners aligned and fully supportive of what we need to get it done, the sky is the limit for Hulu," he said in a note to staff made public by the streaming service today.