The Innovative Gamble of Hulu

I read an interesting article about Hulu awhile back which points out the risks involved with providing content through unusual means (through the Internet rather than just on TV), but the greater risks involve not being willing to make any changes whatsoever.

The Fast Company article is by Chuck Salter. He writes:

“The industry goes through moments like this every 25 years or so,” explains Kilar, a voracious student of media history. “It happened when the major networks started. It happened with cable TV. I realized I’d have way too much regret not doing it.”

Of course, it may be the networks that wind up with regret. Because even as Kilar set out to help NBC and Fox avoid the drift toward obscurity that threatens the music and newspaper industries, he began creating something that could contribute to their undoing: a new and better way to watch TV shows.

While ad revenue is plummeting elsewhere in media, Hulu’s is growing, with more than 250 advertisers and an estimated $120 million in revenue in 2009, according to analysts — from zero just two years ago. “In the early days,” Kilar tells the group, “advertisers wouldn’t even meet with us.”

“Kilar unveiled a bombshell: The search engine his team had built would display results for all broadcast video across the Web.

“There was this slight moment of ‘huh?’ ” recalls J.B. Perrette, head of digital distribution at NBC Universal. Why would a site owned by NBC and Fox allow you to search for, say, CSI: Miami — and then provide links to take you to the CBS site?

Kilar calmly explained that he wanted Hulu to be the online authority on TV video, just as Amazon is the expert site for books. If people are looking for a particular show — any show — Hulu should help them find it. As Kilar sees it, shows are the brands users care about, not the networks that air them. There was a “healthy debate,” he recalls. It was a debate that he would win, although he’s too diplomatic to put it that way.”

“Consumer behavior is one of the hardest things to change,” Kilar says. “The gap between the existing and the new has to be so materially better that it shocks you into a behavior change.”

Read the rest of the article here.

In what ways should those of us who are church leaders change our methods to distribute our message? What are some ways we have remain resistant to do so?

  • Tiffany Holland

    Great article! We should all be regularly taking a look with fresh eyes at the systems and methods that so easily become ruts. Change is hard but if we become more effective and better for it, bring it on!

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