Hulu eyeing half a billion in sales this year

Projecting revenue of close to $500 million for 2011, Hulu says it also expects to have more than a million Hulu Plus subscribers before the year is over.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read

Hulu CEO Jason Kilar
Hulu CEO Jason Kilar Greg Sandoval/CNET

Hulu is forecasting sales of close to half a billion dollars and more than a million Hulu Plus subscribers this year.

In a blog posted yesterday, CEO Jason Kilar marked the end of the first quarter with some notable figures and projections about the company's recent past and upcoming future.

The forecast of almost $500 million in sales for the year follows the first quarter in which revenue shot up around 90 percent compared with last year's initial quarter, according to Kilar. For 2010 as a whole, Hulu took in sales of $263 million.

Touting the expected rise in Hulu Plus subscribers to more than a million this year after the pay option launched last summer, Kilar said that as far as he knows, this marks the fastest start of any online video subscription service.

Of course, Hulu Plus has faced a bumpy road. Its initial $9.95 price tag, the inclusion of ads, and the limited selection compared with Netflix triggered complaints among many users. Competing against the likes of Netflix, Hulu was forced to drop the price of Hulu Plus to $7.99 in November.

In an effort to expand its offerings, Kilar pointed out that Hulu increased its number of content partners to 264 in this year's first quarter, up from the 211 partners it had during the same time period a year ago. During that time, the company saw ups and down with its partners. Viacom broke off with Hulu early last year amid concerns that the partnership wasn't yielding enough revenue. However, a renewed deal between the two in February has since allowed Viacom shows from MTV, Comedy Central, VH1, and other cable channels to appear on Hulu and Hulu Plus.

Hulu's "content community" is expected to earn around $300 million over the course of the year, said Kilar. The service is also boasting more advertisers: 289 for the first quarter of 2011 compared with 194 in the same quarter last year.

Despite Hulu's rosy results so far this year and Kilar's positive forecast, the company and its CEO are in the midst of some challenges.

Reports have arisen about tension between Hulu and its owners, NBC Universal, Disney, and News Corp. Hulu and its parents have reportedly long disagreed over key aspects of Hulu's basic business model, such as how much content should be free. Certain content providers themselves have also reportedly complained that Hulu brings in too little revenue and disrupts their other forms of distribution. Kilar almost certainly added fuel to the fire in February with a blog post in which he criticized traditional TV advertising and distribution.