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Can Vessel change course before the subscription service goes under?

In the face of YouTube Red and go90, Vessel may be pivoting.


Rae Votta


Posted on Aug 3, 2016   Updated on May 26, 2021, 8:21 am CDT

Vessel, former Hulu founder Jason Kilar’s subscription-based digital video offering, has hit rocky water.

Although Vessel has not confirmed, VideoInk reports that the company has terminated partnership contracts for any deals outside of its sweet spots of geek, gaming, and tech. Upon launch, contracts offering multimillion-dollar fees for 72-hour exclusively deals with top digital talent were the norm, but Vessel hasn’t seen much return on investment in a marketplace with increasing competition. 

Confirmation or not, it’s clear that Vessel has not had the subscriber or fandom uptick it anticipated when launching in March 2015. Vessel launched before YouTube itself offered subscriptions through the Red platform; before Verizon’s go90 platform brought ad-supported, free original content in a mobile-first medium; and before Facebook launched Live and pushed for media and celebrity buy in. Despite having a head start, the company has floundered.

The platform brought in content from big names like Ellen DeGeneres, and even removed the ads from subscription accounts. Its $2.99 per month price kept it well under YouTube’s $9.99 model, but an offer for a free first year of membership means it hasn’t brought in much from its current users. 

Is there a future for Vessel? VideoInk reports that there are talks to sell the core business, instead focusing on an alleged group video project which may have stemmed from a recently added feature called Threads that enables creators to post topics and engage with their fans via video responses in the platform. A pivot to social media could be exactly what Vessel needs to revitalize its business and diversify.

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*First Published: Aug 3, 2016, 7:01 pm CDT