Jason Kilar’s Vessel delays launch but opens up to creators

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Vessel, the online video startup co-founded by former Hulu CEO Jason Kilar and former Hulu CTO Richard Tom, is going to launch in early 2015 with a unique proposition: Vessel wants to give consumers early access to videos that they’d otherwise watch on YouTube. From the announcement blog post:

“Early access on Vessel will be offered for only $2.99 a month, a low price made possible by incorporating a modest amount of advertising. For those not as interested in early access, we also have a free, ad-supported version of the service, where videos become available after their early access period.”

Vessel will offer paying subscribers a three-day early access window, but is also promising video creators that they will be able to publish their clips elsewhere (read: on YouTube) after those three days are over. Which makes you wonder: Will people really pay to get those clips three days early?

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Apparently, creators have been wondering the same thing. Vessel did reveal Wednesday that it is working with YouTube stars like Shane Dawson and Rhett & Link, and that the platform will also feature content from Machinima, Tastemade and others, but word has been that the company has had a hard time signing up creators for its model. That’s despite the promise to give them a lot more money. Again, from the blog post:

“Vessel’s business model (subscription + advertising) will deliver unusually attractive economics for creators, allowing them to pursue their dreams and share ever more ambitious work with their fans. During the early access period on Vessel, we estimate that creators will earn approximately $50 for every thousand views (up to 20x the levels earned from free, ad-supported distribution). After Vessel’s early access period, creators will continue to earn money through distribution of their videos on the free, ad-supported web – on Vessel and anywhere else they choose.”

Because of the sign-up challenge, Vessel had to postpone its launch. The company tried to get Vessel ready by the end of the year, and in fact, Vessel’s website promised that it was “coming in 2014.” Now, it is only opening up a sign-up phase for creators, and promises consumers to be ready by early 2015.

Vessel's homepage, up until recently.

Vessel’s homepage, until earlier this week

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