Jason Kilar doesn’t mention YouTube specifically in his first-ever blog post for Vessel, the online video platform that he’s soft launching this week, but the subtext of his missive boils down to: YouTube, I’m coming for you.
Kilar, the former Amazon executive and Hulu CEO, has been working on Vessel ever since he left Hulu in the midst of a turf war between Hulu management and Hulu’s corporate owners at News Corp., Comcast/NBCUniversal, and Disney (which we wrote about here), but Wednesday’s blog post was the first real glimpse of what he’s been up to.
Essentially, Kilar is trying to create a YouTube-like platform of short-form videos geared at young people (so far he’s signed tween heartthrob Shane Dawson and beauty vlogger Ingrid Nilsen) that capitalizes on YouTube’s perceived Achilles Heel: a revenue model for creators that gives partners 55% of the ad revenue they generate.
In his blog post, Kilar flatly tells would-be Vessel creators that they’ll make more money on his platform, which officially launches in the new year. “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,” he writes. He then goes on to outline how that works. There’s a $2.99 a month subscription fee to view content that is exclusive on Vessel for three days before it can stream elsewhere. And then there’s free advertising on all Vessel videos. Creators will get a 70% split of that, according to Re/code.
In his post, Kilar goes on to say that “During the early access period on Vessel, we estimate that creators will earn approximately $50 for every thousand views,” as opposed to the approximately $2 for every thousand views on YouTube.
It’s a savvy pitch that’s coupled with a clean, attractive product–a trademark of the detail-oriented Kilar, who is known to obsess about font size and the minutiae of graphic layout. “These videos are presented in a beautiful, curated”–another knock at notoriously cluttered YouTube–“experience dedicated to creators, the stories they tell, and the fans who follow them,” he writes.
But it’s also predicated on the idea that Vessel will be able to scale in a way that will make its economic model viable. Those nice revenue splits don’t mean much, after all, unless there’s a ton of traffic, and it’s unlikely that Vessel (or anyone else) will come close to matching YouTube’s billion-plus viewers anytime soon. Subscription is another question, one that YouTube has toyed with in the past and has recently said it is examining again. Why the soft tread? Viewers, particularly young viewers who have grown up on the free Internet, are loath to pay for what they’ve never had to pay for before.
Perhaps the most telling line of the post is when Kilar writes that Vessel will play “one part among many that collectively help creators achieve their dreams.” Ultimately, he has no illusion that he can’t actually usurp YouTube, which creators are unlikely to completely desert at this point for a number of reasons. But he can certainly expand the online video universe and create a platform that improves on YouTube’s shortcomings. For now, that’s a compelling experiment–one that many people are likely eager to watch.