Vessel’s video platform debuted in limited access beta on January 21, 2015. On March 24, the Vessel app became available to everyone on iOS and the Android version, June 16.
Prior and following its release, Vessel succeeded in signing both top YouTuber talent and mainstream influencers (most notably The Ellen Show, Rhett & Link, Machinima, and Miss Glamorazzi). Although Vessel’s superior revenue share makes financial sense to some YouTubers, MCNs, and mainstream publishers, many industry professionals have expressed their concern regarding Vessel’s ability to secure a critical mass subscriber base and therefore ensure profitability.
Vessel made major headlines worldwide and garnered the attention of top investment firms when several of YouTube’s top creators signed to Vessel’s video platform. Getting top YouTubers signed to Vessel’s platform did come at an extortionate price: Vessel spent millions, sometimes up to $500,000 on single influencers, to get YouTubers to publish first to Vessel.
With a $75M Series A funding round, Vessel’s video platform quickly became a hot topic of discussion in the online video space, threatening to disrupt YouTube’s foothold in the market. Although traffic to Vessel’s site skyrocketed around their iOS release in March, it quickly plummeted afterwards.
According to data intelligence service Compete.com, traffic to Vessel’s site is nominal and the overarching trend suggests that in spite of Vessel’s sustained effort to sign major YouTubers and publishers, traffic has dropped precipitously to Vessel’s video platform.
Likewise, Google search volume shows a significant downward trend surrounding Vessel. As a threat to YouTube, these trends do not bode well for Vessel. Following Vessel’s Series A round, YouTube bolstered it’s offerings and ancillary support to top YouTuber talent as a proactive countermeasure. In light of Facebook’s recent initiative to split video ad revenue with creators, it would seem as if Facebook, not Vessel, is YouTube’s primary competitor.
Vessel, the “web’s best short-form videos in a beautiful, cinematic environment,” segments its 600+ channel video offering into 24 main categories including standards like Music, Comedy, Gaming and developing newer ones like “Vloggers.”
Vessel presents a brief team backstory and outlines existing issues faced by both creators and consumers that the Vessel video platform aims to solve. Vessel is forthright with it’s low subscription pricing, made possible by a “modest amount of advertising,” and details how creators are compensated (at a rate much higher than the industry norm). The post closes with both an extensive FAQ (expanding on points in blog) and also a call to action for content creators to join their platform pre-beta launch.
A month after, the Vessel video platform debuts in invite-only, iOS beta mode solely for the fans of Vessel’s creators. The offer includes a free first month.
Vessel becomes available to everyone reiterating how “creators [can] offer their new videos exclusively on Vessel for a limited time, typically 72 hours, after which they are available for free on Vessel and anywhere else creators want to make them available (whether it’s on their own website, on YouTube or elsewhere).”
Vessel offers a free year of access for everyone who signs up in the next 72 hours.
Vessel presents 3 core guiding beliefs: 1) We believe that today’s online creators make the videos that matter most to the next generation of video consumers, 2) We believe that the device in your pocket will be the screen that matters most and 3) Lastly, we believe that we are entering the second era of web video.
Kilar presents two important stats in this blog post: 1) “More than 80% of active Vessel subscribers are watching these early access videos on a weekly basis” and 2) creators are earning more than the projected $50 per 1,000 view rate.
Vessel video platform debuts their beta for Android users.
On paper, Vessel looks every bit like what paid cable was for TV, but online — viewed in that light, the video app startup does succeed in creating a subscription-driven video platform. However, in order to truly usher in what Kilar calls “The Second Era Of Web Video,” Vessel video now needs to generate and sustain a healthy subscriber base. Vessel’s endeavor is multifaceted requiring the video platform to not only get traditional YouTube creators on board but also to cultivate a legion of early adopters.
Top name billing aside, Vessel needs a proactive strategy and dedicated marketing campaign to push the “loyal YouTuber follower” to “paying Vessel subscriber.” Even at $2.99 per month for Vessel’s advance access, it’s difficult to imagine more than a exceedingly marginal percentage of YouTuber fanbase that’d pay for the exact content they’d access for free only 72 hours later.
With a robust roster of top YouTubers and mainstream content channels, Vessel’s profitability may have as much to do (and possibly more) with strategic and timely content creation than it’s existing primary selling point: early access. And perhaps since Kilar is explicably interested in selling to die-hard YouTuber fans (the kind that’d gladly fork out hundreds of dollars to see their favorite ones at Vidcon), Vessel’s video platform may fair better with a higher price point coupled with completely exclusive, evergreen Vessel content (i.e. behind-the-scenes, bloopers, alternate endings to a web series).
Since Vessel released to both iOS and Android, Facebook has entered the video content arena offering content creators the same revenue split as YouTube’s but banking on their massive reach and targeted user algorithms to be the tipping point. Successfully battling both Google’s YouTube and Facebook will take more than a “if you build it, they will come” approach. YouTube pioneered the platform of online video, built dedicated creator studio spaces, and continues to innovate with the power of Google’s data as its backbone. It’s homegrown YouTuber talent popularized short-form web content. Now, the social network giant Facebook is hoping to join the space by offering to share profits with creators.
The question remains: Can Vessel disrupt the world of online video content by premiering exclusive content (for a period of 72 hours) in exchange for an ongoing monthly subscription model? Additionally, will Vessel be able to create a profitable, sustainable business following a $135M investment?