By Jocelyn Johnson
It’s still in stealth mode and has (not-so) quietly been banging at the doors of the online video space’s major players and YouTube creators. Until recently, Jason Kilar’s secret startup went by the code name “The Fremont Project.” Last month, the company announced its official name — Vessel — via a statement distributed on its site.
But if you go to Vessel.com, there’s not much in the way of clues towards what Kilar, CTO Richard Tom, and the team have been building outside of a vague note that it will “delight consumers and content creators alike.” According to our sources and some digging on the interwebs, though, here’s what we’ve found out:
Vessel is a premium streaming platform specifically for short-form video content. Some of that content would be offered in front of a paywall, for free. In many ways, think Hulu or DramaFever, but for premium short-form content.
There’s been speculation that Vessel would be a mobile video product. While mobile video is said to be a primary focus (especially given viewing trends for online video on mobile), Vessel’s own recruiting materials claim they are building “a multi-platform consumer facing service” so there will likely be a web product as well.
As far as business model goes we’re told there will be an ad-supported free offering (hence the sales hires mentioned below) as well as a subscription option.
Judging by how Vessel has been acquiring talent — mostly from subscription VOD platforms like Hulu, Amazon, and Netflix — it wouldn’t be surprising to see a very similar framework built, but focused on mobile functionality and short-form content.
Some of the new key hires include former Amazon digital media manager Corky Cook (biz dev), former Hulu execs Steven DeMain (sales), Brian Conkling (finance), Lindsay Monroe (design), and Anthony Di Muccio (sales). GigaOm also previously reported that former Hulu execs — VP of product Lonn Lee, head of recruiting Megan Healey, and SVP of advertising Jean-Paul Colaco – had already been poached by last fall.
According to those we’ve talked to, Kilar’s team has already taken meetings with nearly every major content company from MCN Land as well as premium content companies who are not exclusive to YouTube. Vessel is also looking to strike upfront deals with top tier YouTube creators.
Well, in exchange for uploading content to Vessel first, the company is prepared to offer solid returns much higher than YouTube, much in the way we’ve heard Yahoo is approaching creators. We’re told that any brand-related content can not be added to the site to start though. The vertical focus has yet to be confirmed.
Vessel is working against a relatively tight timeline to get those deals locked up, however, given we’re told the company is readying a launch for fall of this year.
Looks like Vessel should be added to our list of companies poised to take on YouTube.
*Sahil Patel contributed to the reporting of this story.
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