Commentary

Vessel Debuts: Putting A Price On Short Videos

YouTube-bashing has become kind of common now, particularly as Facebook has shown advertisers that videos on that social site perform remarkably well. 

But YouTube is YouTube, a name as connected to short video and short video creators as Heinz is to ketchup. It is streaming’s star-making machine, as much as there is one. And it’s huge. 

And now, officially challenged. After 90 days of beta testing, Vessel debuted today with an idea that is more audacious than it sounds at first. It expects millions of users to agree to pay $2.99 a month to access an exclusive 72-hour window allowing them to see new videos before those very same videos become available, for free, on a Vessel’s free site, or on YouTube and elsewhere. 

Vessel is the creation of former Hulu execs Jason Kilar and Richard Tom and it will be closely watched by advertisers to see if it’s much watched by customers.

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The sweetener is that right now you can sign up and get in on this exclusive window, for free, for a year. That deal also lasts 72 hours, so as the Pocket Fisherman pitch-guy urged, act now.

The talent at Vessel includes familiar faces and multichannel network names nurtured at YouTube, where their stuff will still reside, just a little later.

They include Machinima and Tastemade and creators like Shane Dawson, GloZell Green, Ingrid Nielsen, Caspar Lee and many others. Media companies include Universal and Warner music groups, A+E Network and sports content from the NBA, the NHL,  Major League Soccer, Fox Sports and Sports Illustrated.

According to Re/Code, Vessel is launching with 165 channels.

The user interface is, well, beautiful, all by itself. In presentation alone, Vessel is to YouTube what Tesla is, oh, a 1982 Buick Roadmaster. Browsing Vessel seems elegant.

The contributors to Vessel hope to cash in because they enjoy a 70/30 split from advertising, and Vessel says they could earn $50 per 1,000 views--which is several times more than what YouTube and other online sites offer.

But will it work?

Online doesn’t have a great record making something that was once free all of a sudden come with a cost. The idea that God intended stuff on the Internet to be free! free! is wearing away, but the spine of YouTube is its young, alternative-voice creators. They come from the tradition of garage bands and that’s been some of the charm.

Overt capitalism might seem an awkward fit with YouTube, er, Vessel stars. Their no-frills approach has been heretofore understandable because of  their relative (presumed) poverty.

Assuming that Vessel subscribers will pay $2.99 a month to see something on Monday that they can see for free by Thursday is still a crapshoot, I’d say, but it’s a great big step. Because if users pay, the most experimental online video producers may indeed find a way to support themselves.


pj@mediapost.com
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