Hulu CEO Randy Freer is stepping down from the streaming service as Disney looks to further integrate Hulu into its direct-to-consumer and international segment.
Freer’s departure, which the companies announced late today following a board meeting, is the first major executive shake-up for the streaming service since Disney assumed full operational control from Comcast in May.
Freer, who had been with Hulu since 2017, will stay on for the next several weeks to assist with the transition, the companies said Friday. Following his exit, Hulu’s executives will report directly into Disney’s direct-to-consumer and international business leads.
“I want to thank Randy for his leadership the last two years as CEO and for his collaboration the past several months to ensure an exceptionally bright future for Hulu,” Kevin Mayer, chairman of Disney’s direct-to-consumer and international businesses, said in a statement. “With the successful launch of Disney+, we are now focused on the benefits of scale within and across our portfolio of DTC businesses. Further integrating the immensely talented Hulu team into our organization will allow us to more effectively and efficiently deploy resources, rapidly grow our presence outside the U.S. and continue to relentlessly innovate. There is a tremendous amount of opportunity ahead, and I am confident in our ability to accelerate our positive momentum and better serve consumers.”
After Disney, which acquired 21st Century Fox and its Hulu stake in March, assumed full operational control two months later, it was largely expected that there would be some shake-ups as the company incorporated Hulu into its portfolio. That began in July when the company integrated Hulu’s originals team, lead by Craig Erwich, into Disney’s own television division, but that was a shift in chains of command and did not result in any executive departures.
Freer, a longtime television executive, oversaw the streaming service’s increased investment in original programming and its continued development of ad products to fuel its ad-supported tier. Prior to his time at Hulu, Freer had a long tenure at Fox and Fox Sports.
“I am grateful for my time at Hulu and the opportunity to work and learn with an incredibly talented and dedicated group of people,” Freer said in a statement about his departure. “I also want to thank Kevin and The Walt Disney Company, as well as NBCUniversal and Fox, for providing me the opportunity to lead Hulu during a time of tremendous growth and significant industry transformation. Hulu has established itself as a leading choice for consumers looking for the best TV service available today, and I am confident Hulu will thrive inside Disney under DTCI’s leadership and resources.”
The shake-up comes as Disney places greater importance on its direct-to-consumer streaming businesses, which include Hulu, Disney+ and ESPN+. The company in August introduced a bundled offering of all three services.
And corporate sibling FX will launch a branded hub on the service, called FX on Hulu, beginning March 2. FX chairman John Landgraf created the hub alongside Freer, Mayer, Disney Television Studios and ABC Entertainment chairman Dana Walden, and Disney Television chairman and Disney Media Networks co-chair Peter Rice.
Freer became the second media company CEO to leave on Friday. Earlier in the day, ViacomCBS said George Cheeks would replace Joe Ianniello as president and CEO of CBS Entertainment Group, beginning March 23.