More information is slowly trickling out about former Hulu head Jason Kilar’s stealth video startup Vessel. Even that company’s name was a mystery until last month when the startup, previously known as The Fremont Project, quietly released the Vessel moniker on its website. Despite a murky mission statement, Vessel has managed to raise $75 million from investors, so it can afford to take a big swing at whatever its target might be. At the moment, it looks like one of those targets could be YouTube.
By all accounts, Vessel is looking to be a home for premium short-form content, similar to Amazon’s currently underutilized Video Shorts section. However, it seems that the start-up, like Yahoo’s long-delayed YouTube rival, has its eye on YouTube’s enviable roster of native creator talent. According to a report in The Information, Vessel is reaching out to established YouTube creators with exclusive content deals.
It’s commonly assumed that the best way for any challenger to compete with YouTube would be to exploit the dissatisfaction that many creators feel with the traditional 55/45 revenue split that Google offers its partners. Vessel is rumored to be offering better terms for exclusive content, including higher ad rates. The start-up may also offer a premium to creators who agree to temporary exclusivity, launching content on Vessel 30 days before uploading to YouTube.
As much as creators might complain about their YouTube earnings, it’s unlikely that many would be willing to abandon the Google ship entirely. Bigger payouts may be appealing, but no start-up could hope to match YouTube’s reach right out of the gate. Temporary exclusives might be more attractive to established creators looking to branch out.
Regardless of how successful Vessel is in luring YouTube talent, it has become increasingly clear that YouTube’s greatest strength isn’t its technology, its extensive reach, or its Google bank account. Rather, YouTube’s greatest asset is its huge roster of homegrown creators. Compared to its would-be rivals, YouTube has nearly a decade head start on building a creative community and nurturing talent. Competitors will need to poach some of that talent or painstakingly grow their own.
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