The prevailing wisdom in business is that it’s best to disrupt yourself before someone else comes along to do it for you. News Corp. and NBCUniversal had the foresight to start Hulu as Internet video was taking off in 2007. Thanks to Jason Kilar’s vision and leadership, the service has grown from a single website serving up last night’s episode of The Simpsons to a service featuring content from more than 400 partners as well as original series from filmmakers Richard Linklater, Morgan Spurlock, and Kevin Smith. Revenue soared 60% last year, to $420 million, and is on pace to exceed $600 million this year. And despite broad consumer resistance to paying for digital content, especially when it’s available elsewhere for free, Kilar has attracted more than 2 million people to Hulu Plus, a $7.99-a-month subscription service that offers full access to Hulu’s library on an array of devices such as mobile phones, game consoles, tablets, and, most recently, Apple TV. Even more remarkable: He’s serving ads to both free and paying customers, an industry-leading 46.4 ads per viewer per month, according to comScore’s July 2012 online video rankings. Hulu’s own stats suggest that 96% of those ads are watched in full.
Despite all that brain-sprayingly awesome news, the lords of television are having second thoughts about this whole disruption thing.