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Hulu Plus numbers blurted from blog, open to many interpretations

When Jason Kilar, CEO of Hulu And the man driving Hulu Plus numbers, begins talking about the “years” ahead for Hulu Plus, instead of the days, you kn


Published: 7 April, 2011


When Jason Kilar, CEO of Hulu And the man driving Hulu Plus numbers, begins talking about the “years” ahead for Hulu Plus, instead of the days, you know that it has a future after all. This week in a blog posted on the company’s web site he said, “As a young company, we're excited about that number and we also expect it to grow aggressively in the years to come," Kilar wrote.

The number he was talking about the $300 million that Hulu (not just Hulu Plus) would be generating for content businesses during 2011, but he may just as well have been speaking about the 1 million customers that he now says will take Hulu Plus by year end or the $500 million of revenues that the business (all of Hulu) is on track for during 2011.

But to us “the years to come” was the most disturbing thought. At Faultline we had predicted disaster when Hulu launched, on the basis that each of the founders had their own web strategy to be going along with, and that as rivals, they would argue, fall out and close Hulu within a year. They didn’t. Also we felt it wasn’t a real business and continued to take that tack until Hulu Plus was launched, with an actual business model and reluctantly gave it our blessing with the headline “So it begins, a war for Middle Earth” – US OTT battle lines drawn.

These were of course the words of King Theoden of Rohan, in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, uttered as Saruman’s 10,000 evil Uruk-hai chant outside the gates of Helm’s Deep -which we felt pretty much summed up the move by Hulu to come out with a paid for Over The Top offer for what was initially $10, later cut to $8 a month.

But given that this launch was announced in July, was in preview until November when it has its price cut to $7.99 a month, it’s hardly had time to build 1 million customers. But that’s not quite what Kilar said.

“We are on track to exceed 1 million Hulu Plus subscribers in 2011 (up from 0 in 2010). To our knowledge, this is the fastest start of any online video subscription service,” goes his Blog.

This is, of course something of an invention – if the aim is to be at 1 million by the end of 2011, and even if the sign ups were evenly spaced, which they won’t be, that’s roughly 71,000 a month starting the clock in November, which by now will have just reached 355,000. It’s hard to take a business seriously when it predicts first year sales based on sales for the first four or five months. If the numbers are ramping, it is likely that the actual number of subscribers are closer to 200,000 or 250,000 and Kilar is just anticipating uninterrupted momentum to the 1 million mark, which of course might not happen..

If you project revenues on JUST this number of subscribers that’s around $8 at 12 months each, which would come to $24 million. If the momentum continues, each additional month’s sign ups would only pay part of the year, so something substantially less than $96 million. So when Kilar talks about revenues of $500 million, he implies, but does not say, that this is coming out of subscriptions, but of course it’s not.

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