Vessel, the subscription streaming service created by Hulu's ex-CEO, is now available to the public. Around a year ago, Jason Kilar and Rich Tom abandoned their positions as Hulu's CEO and chief technical officer to begin building Vessel with the goal of harnessing the financial power of viral video stars.
Videos posted to Vessel will only be exclusive for three days
For $2.99 a month, Vessel users can watch advance episodes of web shows from stars like fashion blogger Ingrid Nilsen and parody comic Shane Dawson. Videos posted to Vessel won't be available anywhere else for 72 hours — a time slot the creators can extend if they want to.
The service began courting content from video creators last month, with plans to launch publicly once their content was flush enough to warrant a fee. In addition to the subscription service, Vessel will let users watch videos from sites like CollegeHumor and Funny Or Die for free.
YouTube, where most of these shows are currently hosted, takes a 45 percent cut of the advertising revenue generated by its users. Vessel, on the other hand, is offering creators 70 percent of all ad revenue and 60 percent of subscription revenue. YouTube, unsurprisingly, is worried about Vessel swiping its creators, and has moved quickly to sign new deals with its big stars as well as offer bonuses, The Wall Street Journal reports.
These YouTube stars won't appeal to everyone — many people won't even know who they are — but their fanbases are formidable. Nilsen and Dawson both have several million subscribers, and PewDiePie, YouTube's most popular content creator, has nearly 34 million. Last month, Kilar called Vessel "a missing piece in the ecosystem," claiming fans will be willing to pay to see videos before anyone else can.
PewDiePie might not appeal to you
It remains to be seen whether Vessel's relatively small three-day exclusivity window will be enough to entice fans to pay, when they can always wait the length of a long weekend and watch the videos for free. There is also currently no system in place to prevent users from ripping Vessel videos and posting them to free sites — for now, the company is betting on the morality of its largely teenage target audience.
Vessel is offering a one-month free trial for new users on the web and iOS. An Android app is in the works.