Video Service Vessel Launches to the Public
The subscription service costs $2.99 per month for early access to videos from digital content creators such as Connor Franta and Shane Dawson.
Three months after inviting online video creators to join its ranks, Vessel has opened its doors to the public.
The company, founded by former Hulu boss Jason Kilar, on Tuesday invited people to sign up for its online video service, which offers early access to videos from YouTube stars such as Connor Franta and digital studios such as gamer-focused YouTube network Machinima.
Vessel offers some videos for free, but the crux of its offering is a $2.99-a-month subscription that promises viewers access to short-form videos at least three days before they become available elsewhere online.
Vessel began accepting partner signups in December during a creator preview in an effort to build up its content library and early-access partnerships, which will be key to convincing young, online-savvy audiences to pay for videos that they've been watching for free. The service then soft-launched to a select group of invite-only testers in January.
In the months since Vessel opened up to creators, it has gone from 30 content partners to more than 175, with 135 providing early access to their videos on Vessel, Kilar tells The Hollywood Reporter. Digital stars such as GloZell Green, Rhett & Link, Shane Dawson and Franta are part of that exclusive list. So is Machinima, which will give Vessel a one-week window for the fifth season of web series Battlefield Friends. Discovery Digital Networks, meanwhile, will offer early access to some programs, including Philip DeFranco's The Vloggity.
Other partners, including The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night with Seth Meyers, will provide videos as part of Vessel's free, ad-supported offering.
Not every top YouTube creator has signed on with Vessel, though more could join after launch. Kilar says the company has some 2,500 creators who have applied to put their videos on Vessel who are still waiting for approval. The company, he says, is looking to create a "curated service" featuring ambitious creators with recurring content and passionate fans.
Vessel's pitch to creators has been that they have the opportunity to build a significant business around the windowing of their content. Vessel offers 70 percent of the advertising revenue generated around a creator's content, much higher than the 45 percent that YouTube offers, and 60 percent of subscription revenue, allocated based on a creator's share of minutes watched on Vessel.
"It can lay a path for a very big business for creators," Kilar says. "But we've also been very careful to recognize that there may be some partners where it's better for us to start with the free, ad-supported relationships. It really depends on the creator."
One category that could prove a draw to fans is music. Vessel has struck deals with Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group to debut some music videos first on Vessel. Blake Shelton, for example, will release the music video for "Sangria" on March 24 exclusively on Vessel.
"Someone's favorite band is something that they care very deeply about," Kilar says. "If we can provide early access to that content, we can delight the consumer and help the creator to build a meaningful business online. That's very important because there's been a growing meme from Taylor Swift and others who have been less than encouraged with their economic performance on the Internet."
To entice people to sign up, Vessel is running a promotion at launch. For the next 72 hours, people who subscribe to Vessel will get a free year of early access.
Kilar says he'll count the Vessel launch as a success if the service gains traction with those passionate fans. "It all starts with the fans," he says. "To have the biggest fans of the creators on our service, trying it out, that would be a home run. We're very focused on welcoming the biggest fans of these creators to serving them well."