Friday, January 4, 2013 at 7:51 pm.

And Now Let’s Take A Moment To Appreciate Hulu CEO Jason Kilar

Jason Kilar

Master of the black undershirt.

On the eve of CES, Hulu CEO Jason Kilar announced his retirement today. Peter Kafka has a good take here, and Kilar’s note to his staff includes a number of stats worth being proud of. But in this case, the stats aren’t the story.

The reason I’ve always appreciated Kilar is that he took an assignment where mediocrity would have been acceptable and made something truly great instead.

Hulu was beautiful, simple, and it worked. Everything about it — the page design, player controls, advertising experience — was way better than what came before it. At a time when even web-native publishers were trying to cram more lame widgets and ad units onto every page — never mind the garbage the TV networks were pushing — Hulu was a tasteful breakthrough.

When I cut the cord in 2008 and tried to live without cable, I proudly labeled myself a “Hulu Household” — not Vudu or Fancast. (It didn’t last, but that’s not entirely Jason’s fault.)

And the skeptic’s common refrain — “Kilar was born on third base! He didn’t have to work for anything!” — is bullshit. Look at some of the other partnerships the TV industry contributed to during that era: Canoe Ventures, for instance, a joke of an attempt to make interactive ads. Or Pivot, the cable industry’s fast-failing wireless venture with Sprint. Remember Joost? Right.

Hulu’s future, as always, is far from certain. The best-possible Hulu would probably be one that runs counter to its owners’ huge, existing businesses, so Hulu is probably going to get weaker as time goes on, and as Kilar exits. But a whole bunch of stuff is probably going to change over the next decade or so, anyway. So, who knows.

But, really: Well done, Jason. The world — especially the media business — needs more leaders with good taste.