Hulu CEO Randy Freer has made a series of sweeping organizational changes, leading to the departure of three top execs — chief content officer Joel Stillerman, Tim Connolly, senior VP of partnerships and distribution, and Ben Smith, Hulu’s senior VP of experience.
Hulu’s content teams will now be organized into two groups: one combining live TV and subscription VOD content licensing, acquisition and business functions; and the other dedicated to original programming, led by SVP of content Craig Erwich, that will also manage Hulu’s relationships with creators, producers and studios.
Stillerman, who had overseen all of Hulu’s content strategy, is leaving one year after joining from AMC Networks. In announcing the changes, Hulu said it is conducting a search for an exec to head the new content partnerships group and is eliminating the chief content officer role.
“Ben, Tim and Joel have all played a significant role in getting Hulu to the strong position it is in today. They will forever be a part of Hulu’s success story, and we wish them the very best in their next endeavors,” Freer said in a statement.
Meanwhile — in moves Hulu says will position it for future growth — the company is combining technology and product organizations, under the leadership of newly appointed chief technology officer Dan Phillips, former COO of TiVo. It also has appointed Jaya Kolhatkar, former SVP of global data and analytics platforms for Walmart, to the newly created role of chief data officer.
It’s the first major housecleaning under Freer’s leadership, after he was named Hulu’s CEO last October to replace Mike Hopkins, who left to join Sony Pictures Television as chairman.
“By adding new expertise and capabilities to our executive ranks and creating greater alignment around our customers, we are positioning Hulu to grow more rapidly, innovate more quickly and connect consumers even more deeply with the content they love,” Freer said.
As head of experience, Smith, a former Xbox and Sonos exec, has overseen Hulu’s product development and design and customer-facing functions; he’s set to leave the company in July.
With the reorg and Smith’s exit, chief marketing officer Kelly Campbell will now oversee the entire subscriber life cycle journey – from acquisition, engagement and retention, to viewer experience and research – across all of Hulu’s on-demand and live TV plans. In addition, Campbell and her marketing team will now oversee Hulu’s subscriber partnerships (previously overseen by Connolly), including its current relationships with Spotify and Sprint.
Hulu’s advertising sales group will continue reporting to SVP of ad sales Peter Naylor. All of Hulu’s shared services functions — finance, legal, corporate communications, and talent and organization — will be unaffected, with heads of those departments continuing to report directly to Freer.
Phillips will join Hulu as its new CTO, based in Santa Monica, on June 4. Most recently at TiVo, Phillips led the engineering, product and professional-services group with more than 1,000 staffers following Rovi’s acquisition of the DVR and software company. Last fall, Tian Liam, the company’s previous CTO, left to join Google as VP of product and user experience for Google Play.
Phillips will lead Hulu’s new Technology & Product organization, which encompasses engineering, data-center operations, the network and broadcast operations center, information technology and program management, as well as product management, user experience and product development. Hulu’s technology and product teams in Santa Monica, Seattle, Marin, and Beijing will report to Phillips when he assumes the CTO role.
“Dan brings deep technical expertise, strategic business sensibilities and a proven track record of driving large technology and product organizations through massive industry transformation,” Freer said in announcing his hire.
Kolhatkar, who will report to Freer, will be responsible for Hulu’s customer-intelligence capabilities and fostering “a culture of objective, data-driven decision making” at the company. Prior to joining Walmart in 2013, she worked for Silicon Valley companies including PayPal, eBay and Amazon.com. She’s scheduled to start July 2 at Hulu’s Santa Monica headquarters.
“With her years of experience managing, analyzing and governing data for many of the world’s largest companies, Jaya brings the strong leadership and expertise Hulu needs to deliver more meaningful experiences to consumers and more effective solutions to brands,” Freer said in a prepared statement.
Hulu is owned by 21st Century Fox, Disney, and NBCUniversal (which each hold a 30% stake) and Time Warner (which has 10%). Disney would obtain Fox’s stake in Hulu under the Mouse House’s proposed $52.4 billion bid for 21st Century Fox’s entertainment assets — giving Disney majority control of Hulu — unless Comcast ends up swooping in with a higher offer that’s approved by Fox shareholders.