My favorite web series, High Maintenance, began appearing on Vimeo back in 2012. The directors picked Vimeo for the same reason many independent artists do: a guarantee that their material would appear without ads and free of the clutter that surrounds videos on Youtube. This year, after a very successful run as a free show, High Maintenance became the first big-budget project backed by Vimeo, an attempt to emulate Netflix original content creation for a streaming video audience.
The market for professionally produced video that skips television and theaters, going straight to the web, is still fairly young. As we move into a world where more and more people are cutting the cord and choosing their entertainment on demand and a la carte, there will be room for plenty of competitors. The challenge for Vimeo is not getting outbid, and overshadowed, by much larger companies with billion-dollar budgets.
Vimeo has always been a sort of outlier, putting art above commerce. Now it wants to position itself as a premium channel: the HBO to Youtube's network television. The problem is that companies like HBO are also rushing onto the web. The key differentiator for Vimeo would be pushing its commitment to supporting these artists. It has lots of reminders on its site that when you're buying something on Vimeo, "most of the cash goes to the maker."
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