Hulu’s ready to go beast mode, and has recruited AMC’s programming chief to help it grow its footprint as one of TV’s key streaming services.
Joel Stillerman, who spent nearly 10 years at AMC Networks – most recently as president of original programming and development for AMC and Sundance TV – has been named Hulu’s first-ever chief content officer.
Stillerman’s mandate? Come up with a content strategy that will grow Hulu’s advertising revenue (don’t forget, unlike Netflix, a good chunk of Hulu’s users see ads) and subscriber growth.
Hulu’s subscriber base was around 12 million last year, and at its upfront presentation last week, the company reported 47 million total unique viewers. But it still has a way to go to catch up to competitors Netflix and Amazon: According to eMarketer, Netflix boasts around 128 million individual users this year, while Amazon has around 85.3 million viewers.
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As part of the new structure, Hulu’s programming chief, Craig Erwich, will continue as senior vice president and head of content. Hulu had been looking for a chief content officer since earlier this year, and Erwich was involved in the search.
As Hulu rapidly expanded its originals and acquisitions strategy over the past year – including an aggressive push into film output deals – it became apparent that the streamer needed someone to oversee the company’s overall content strategy, allowing Erwich to focus on programming.
Stillerman joins Hulu as the service is enjoying a round of praise for freshman series “The Handmaid’s Tale,” while series such as “Casual” and “The Path” continue to earn high marks from critics. Meanwhile, “The Mindy Project,” an early signature original for the service, is heading toward its conclusion. (The move actually reunites Stillerman with several of his former AMC stars, including “Handmaid’s Tale’s” Elizabeth Moss, formerly of “Mad Men,” and “Breaking Bad’s” Aaron Paul, now on “The Path.”)
Upcoming Hulu originals include the J.J. Abrams-produced “Castle Rock,” the Marvel series “Runaways” and Beau Willimon’s “The First.” And recent varied acquisitions at Hulu include the “Golden Girls” library and output deals with distributors including Annapurna Pictures, Neon Films and others.
Stillerman also comes to Hulu as the company launches a new live TV service, which aims to bring younger consumers into the company fold. Stillerman will move to Los Angeles and report to Hulu CEO Mike Hopkins.
“This year is a transformative year for Hulu – not just in our products, but also our investment in acquired and original content,” Hopkins said. “Over the past several years, we’ve grown our audience and our content offering exponentially, and now is the right time to add Joel’s creative and strategic leadership to the team and drive the next phase of Hulu’s content business.”
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Stillerman knows a thing or two about aggressively expanding a network’s programming slate; during his tenure at AMC, the network increased its lineup of originals with shows like “The Walking Dead,” “Into the Badlands” and “The Night Manager.”
The exec’s varied career includes running his own company, Yolo Films, as well as stints as head of content at Walden Media (where he developed “The Chronicles of Narnia”) and co-founding Spanky Pictures with Ted Demme. He won the Primetime Emmy for Best Movie in 1999 (HBO’s “A Lesson Before Dying”) and his 2005 HBO film “Sometimes in April” was recognized by the AFI. Earlier, he was a longtime producer and exec at MTV, working on franchises such as “MTV Unplugged” and the “MTV Video Music Awards.”
At AMC Networks, which Stillerman first joined in 2008, a search is now underway for a new head of programming for AMC and Sundance TV. Stillerman’s departments will report to Charlie Collier, president of AMC, Sundance TV and AMC Studios, in the meantime.
“Joel has played a major role in the transformation of AMC from a movie channel into an established leader in original programming,” Collier said. “We wish him nothing but the best in his move to the West Coast, his future endeavors with our partner, Hulu, and — perhaps most challenging — his search to replace his New Jersey bowling team, the Emus, who will surely miss him as much as we will.”
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