Hulu Names Fox Executive Freer as CEO

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  • Online service aims to increase on-demand and live TV users
  • Under Hopkins, Hulu beat Netflix, Amazon to top Emmy award

Hulu LLC, the online video service, named Randy Freer chief executive officer, charging the long-time Fox executive with building the company’s live and on-demand TV businesses as more consumers ditch cable for web-based alternatives.

Freer, 57, succeeds Mike Hopkins, another Fox alum, who becomes chairman of Sony Pictures Television. Prior to joining Hulu, Freer was chief operating officer of the networks group at 21st Century Fox Inc., one of Hulu’s four owners.

Hopkins, 48, is leaving after the streaming service released its first original hit series, “The Handmaid’s Tale.” The adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s novel earned the Emmy award for best drama, giving Hulu critical acclaim that has eluded larger competitors Netflix Inc. and Inc. In going to Sony, he will again be working with Tony Vinciquerra, his former boss there and now CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Running Hulu is a challenge for the most diplomatic of executives. Controlled by four of the largest media companies in the world, the company has shifted strategy a few times in response to their aims. Those owners -- Fox, Walt Disney Co., Comcast Corp. and more recently Time Warner Inc. twice explored selling the company, which started as an online site for fans who wanted to catch up on last night’s TV.

Hopkins took over after Fox and Disney decided not to sell the company, and invested billions of dollars pursuing two strategies. Hulu will spend $2.5 billion on programming designed to lure customers to its $7.99 a month on-demand service, which includes the original shows “Casual” and “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and reruns of older programs. Hulu is also selling a live TV service that offers dozens of channels for $39.99 a month.

Media Career

Comcast is barred from influencing the operations of the company by a consent decree dating to its acquisition of NBCUniversal. Time Warner owns a smaller stake than its three partners, and doesn’t have seats on the board.

Like Hopkins, Freer is well-versed in navigating large media corporations. He ran Fox Sports before taking his current job, helping to oversee a portfolio of TV networks that includes FX, National Geographic and the Fox broadcast network. Freer already served on Hulu’s board.

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