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Former Hulu CEO Moves Into Web Video With Vessel


Former Hulu CEO Jason Kilar just unveiled details about his latest venture, a platform for web video called Vessel that seeks to rival YouTube.

Vessel will feature web series, shorts, TV segments and music videos – many of them by already-established YouTube creators – but its defining feature is that it will allow subscribers early access to content. For example, subscribers could see a web series episode days, weeks or months ahead of when YouTube audiences and non-subscribers would see it. As the company explains, "while a video is being offered for early access on Vessel, it not be available at the same time for free anywhere."

Users can pay $2.99 a month for early access to content, but there will be a free and ad-supported version of the site as well. Those users without a subscription won't be able to get early access.

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Video creators who have already signed up for the service include actor Alec Baldwin, YouTube personalities Shane Dawson and Ingrid Nilsen and three multichannel networks, reports the Guardian.

In a company blog post, Kilar, who stepped down from streaming service Hulu in early 2013, explains the rationale for his new focus on web video. "Many of these voices have become brands in their own right, building passionate audiences that rival the size of the most popular shows on network and cable TV," he wrote. "We are eager to help recognize and foster the explosion of new, talented voices."

Indeed, at least for teens, the perennial first bastion of cool, YouTube creators have essentially eclipsed big Hollywood stars as the most influential celebs, according to a Variety survey released over the summer. And recently, the debut novel from a British beauty vlogger named Zoe Sugg had record-breaking first week sales in the UK, selling nearly 80,000 copies and beating out big literary names like Dan Brown and J.K. Rowling.

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So what does Vessel mean for web creators? It wants to be seen as "a better way" to make online video a real revenue source, particularly through the early-access feature. The company says that creators who release their videos to Vessel subscribers for 72 hours ahead of their broader audience will take in 70 percent of advertising dollars and 60 percent of subscription dollars.

The company anticipates that participating creators will earn roughly $50 per 1,000 video views, "up to 20x more per view than creators earn from free, ad-supported distribution."

Additionally, creators can earn money from getting their fans to give the new service a try, getting $7 for every user they refer who decides to stay on after the free trial.

Vessel is expected to be available sometime early next year. It remains to be seen whether lightening can strike twice for Kilar and co-founder Richard Tom, and if they can gain traction with a user base as sizable as YouTube's.

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