SXSW: Vimeo Launches On Demand Service for Users to Rent, Buy Videos

Vimeo subscribers can now charge other users for their videos

Video-sharing website Vimeo entered the teeming field of online film distributors on Tuesday, launching Vimeo On Demand, a service that enables its paying subscribers to charge other Vimeo users a fee for watching their videos. Vimeo announced this new service at South by Southwest, the Austin-based music, film and interactive festival where the nine-year-old company has sponsored a theater for the last three years.

Vimeo draws more than 90 million unique users per month, according to its own metrics. Its more than 15 million registered users can now either rent or purchase videos under the new program. The video creators set the price, take 90 percent of the revenue and can also determine which countries the movies are available in.

“Vimeo continues to focus on being the platform of choice for higher quality creators to upload, store, share and distribute their content to the world,” CEO Kerry Trainor told TheWrap. "Empowering those creators with ways to monetize was the natural next step.”

Trainor said Vimeo users have been asking for this feature for some time, and that Vimeo chose to act now because users have shown a willingness to pay for videos online, thereby accelerating artists’ efforts to self-distribute videos.

Louis C.K.’s decision to sell his own stand-up special, “Live at Beacon Theater,” for $5 from his own website remains the Platonian ideal that every filmmaker and digital distributor wants to replicate. By setting the transaction up himself and cutting out middle men who would share in the profit, the comedian made more than $1 million in less than a month.

Aziz Ansari had similar success through a partnership with New York-based VHX, which empowers artists to self-distribute their work, leveraging an existing fan base to monetize their videos.

While those artists cut out digital storefronts like iTunes and Amazon, other outlets like social video company Chill have launched their own stores to facilitate self-distribution for artists.

Also Read: Taking a Page from Louis C.K., Chill Launches Online Store for Films, Comedy Specials

Like those stores and unlike iTunes, Vimeo’s store is an open platform that lets any registered user upload videos. It launches with a screening of "It's Such a Beautiful Day,"  a feature film version of Austin-based animator Don Hertzfeldt's short film trilogy about a man named Bill.

After screening at the festival Tuesday morning, the film will be available exclusively on Vimeo — costing $2 to rent and $6 to purchase.

“We view this less as going out and capturing x percent of the established market and more as building an entirely new section of the market,” Trianor said. “We offer the creator the very best presentation of work; the player is going to be beautiful. Beyond the baseline technology, we offer the quality, flexibility, control and economics to make it really compelling.”