Operator's Playbook: A Preface
Welcome! And thank you for coming by. Before diving in, a brief introduction to why the Operator’s Playbook exists, and my best guess at what it will become.
Why and for who?
When I joined the team in 2012, Hulu was mostly a free, ad-supported streaming service. Netflix had 25 million paid subscribers, spurred mostly by their DVD service. (Netflix passed 200 million paid subs in Q1 '21.) Most people had no clue Amazon Prime offered video streaming.
There were positive signs for digital subscription video, but skepticism seemed more common. Most folks didn't think people would pay for video over the internet. Even for those that did, the speed of change was uncertain.
I was barely qualified for any job at that point and happy to finally have a paycheck. Not surprisingly, my assignment was Hulu Plus, our fledgling subscription video service.
I had no idea what I was doing. Everything was new and there were no guideposts. It was early days "digital marketing" and ad products were more primitive than today. There weren't any major online subscription businesses to learn from. Concepts like "customer acquisition cost" & "lifetime value" were far from the buzz words they've become.
I'm lucky to have been so inexperienced and naive, and unaware of imposter syndrome. Even more so, I worked with incredible people and we figured it out together. We learned a lot. That theme would carry through to Crunchyroll and HBO Max.
In ways, the passion economy is in a similar state as streaming video when I joined Hulu. Excitement and promising signs dance around the edges. But it's far from certain the passion economy will continue to grow and thrive. Even if directionally correct, the pace of change remains a question.
I'm a big believer in the passion economy. It has the potential (not the certainty) to empower individuals. It will give rise to powerful 21st media brands. "Full-time employment", at least how it’s thought of today, may become a foreign concept for future generations.
I want to support this change. My goal is to publish our learnings from growing Hulu, Crunchyroll, HBO Max, and other products. I want to share our decision-making frameworks and growth tactics. I want to help creators avoid the painful lessons we learned the hard way. I want to accelerate each creator's growth in audience and earnings.
What is it?
To be honest, I'm not totally sure!
Over the years, we talked to various teams about how to launch and grow digital subscription businesses. We kept returning to a few key principles and frameworks. The opening posts will cover these fundamentals.
I hope to stick to a few distinctions as it evolves:
Structured. This will not be sequential or feed-based. It will always have structure. Harder to grasp topics will always be further down the list than the fundamentals. Like building blocks, we'll work our way towards more complex topics.
Fluid. While structured, it will be far from rigid or set in stone. It will be a breathing, evolving piece of work. I'm hoping it can be increasingly community-driven. I would like to update sections with guest posts that add depth or clarity. This will become especially potent if we can have fellow creators in the passion economy share their insights and tactics.
Enduring. Since it's not feed-based or topical per se, the intention is for the writing to have a longer shelf life. I'll work hard to make sure everyone stays updated as we build our collective knowledge base. Over time, the goal will be less making sure you receive a weekly email, and more so maximizing insights per word I send you.
I want to make sure the Operator’s Playbook is as useful as possible. Please let me know feedback as we go on this journey together.
With all that out of the way, let’s start the adventure.