Opinion: YouTube Boost from Vessel?

So the secret is out; Vessel has officially unveiled what it’s up to in its plan for world video domination. The idea is to “poach” (well, OK – tempt) top YouTube celebrities into signing a limited-time exclusivity deal on each video and pitch access to that video to the ‘Tubers’ fanbase for a small monthly fee of $2.99 USD. Advertising will provide additional income and the talent gets a¬†share of the dosh.

Vessel says it will offer “your favourite web series, music videos and complete segments from TV” which sounds vaguely similar to what¬†Blip.tv¬†does although that’s purely a showcase for Maker Studios’ channels and doesn’t charge for access.

Yet another YouTube rival? Well, yes and no. The content’s still likely¬†to be posted up on YouTube,¬†just a minimum three days after it gets a premiere on Vessel. It can go elsewhere too, from Vimeo-on-demand to DVD if that took the Creator’s fancy. So it’s essentially a no-risk, win-win¬†extra option for successful Creators.

Vessel iPad Categories
Vessel iPad Categories

For the modern teen generation who adore and live by the word of YouTube celebs (think Zoella, Tyler Oakley and their ilk) the very notion of waiting (waiting!) to get the latest fashion, beauty and lifestyle vlog episode will surely be unthinkable¬†– and it’ll only take one person in any social group to pay for access to cascade the rest into following suit for fear of¬†appearing out of touch. So, neat plan, Vessel.

Sure, payment for content has long been the bugbear of many an Internet business but by concentrating on the superstars who’ve already built up regular, substantial, committed audiences and by charging what is by any Internet standard a “pocket money”¬†fee, Vessel could have cracked it here we think.

Having said that let’s not forget that YouTube’s own attempt at getting fans to pay for videos seems largely to have¬†fizzled out but maybe that was just a case of the wrong approach with the wrong audience. It would also be very interesting to know how much success Patreon is really enjoying though the great advantage of Vessel is that Creators don’t need to go to the effort of churning out extra content in order to extract the cash from viewers.

Vessel’s¬†plan¬†relies of course on them¬†getting Celebs to sign up but given the well-publicised irritation of many with YouTube’s revenue split¬†(take Jason Calacanis’s famous dissatisfaction) and limited funding opportunities¬†without exploring other avenues, this could be a no-brainer for anyone that Vessel is willing to accept.

Vessel Mobile Video
Vessel Mobile Video

Oh yes, they have to accept and want your channel. No ad-hoc piss-poor webcam video here. It’s all about the uber-Celebs with high production values, apparently.¬†Vessel¬†want to make a shedload of cash and for that they need the content that the consumer is desperate to consume.

So what does this mean for YouTube – and for the not-quite-up-there-with-the-superstars video creators who remain on that platform?

We think it’s good news actually. If Vessel makes any real headway, it’ll drive a spiky¬†prodding stick into YouTube and force Google to contemplate a revision of how it works with¬†its Partners. Even if that only extends to those with a certain number of subscribers to their channels so as to weed out the random shitty uploadings of people with smartphones¬†and too much time on their hands, it should mean a better deal on the way for those who take their video seriously but haven’t reached (and aren’t going to reach) the mega celebrity status. As a channel with (at time of writing) just under 1,000 subscribers ourselves,¬†we like this hopeful prospect!

Then there’ll be competitors. If Vessel works, others will spring up like mushrooms in a well-manured vegetable patch. All the more pressure on YouTube,¬†more choice for Creators and potentially more money too which in many cases is what it’s all about. Say what you like about doing YouTube for the love of it, if you want to do it full-time, it’s got to pay the bills.

The danger perhaps is that the Celebs will enjoy their new-found wealth on Vessel so much that they don’t put their content out for free any more and YouTube loses its big-name stars. In the process it returns to its origins as a free hosting platform for cat videos and wannabes¬†and loses its appeal for viewers who, having become used to micropayments for star content, stay with the new generation of video hosts.

Google’s ownership will do much to fend off this eventual scenario since YouTube videos will inevitably keep showing up in search results. But with backers including Jeff Bezos from Amazon, and founders Jason Kilar (ex Hulu and Amazon) and Richard Tom (Microsoft and Hulu) we wouldn’t like to bet against this one becoming a Very Interesting Story of 2015.

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