Back in July, VideoInk reported Vessel was exploring a sale. Now, a possible buyer has surfaced. According to a report in Recode, Verizon is pondering a purchase of the YouTube-alternative-that-wasn’t co-founded by former Hulu CEO Jason Kilar.
Vessel grabbed attention when it launched in early 2015 with its $2.99 subscription service targeting “super fans” with 72-hour exclusive access to content, and offering IP owners 70% of the ad revenue and 60% of the subscription fee, besting the 55/45 ad revenue split offered by YouTube.
But 70% doesn’t amount to much if hardly anybody is watching. While Vessel had no trouble attracting video makers, with more than 175 creators and media companies signed up to the service at launch, the service never seemed to catch on with video viewers, and it largely fell off the industry’s radar, save for the occasional person asking, “What’s going on with Vessel?”
In the meantime, Verizon has been on a digital media buying streak that has included the $4.4 billion acquisition of AOL in 2015 and the $4.83 billion purchase of Yahoo’s operating assets in July. It’s also pumped huge sums of money into its mobile entertainment platform Go90, which, like Vessel, appears to be lacking in viewers.
Why would Verizon be interested in Vessel? Last month, VideoInk provided a possible answer when it reported that Vessel is using what remains of its $130 million in financing (from backers including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Benchmark) to develop a group video product, dubbed Hubcap, which sources said could be an extension of the Threads feature it rolled out in December. Recode reported Vessel is working on a “Snapchat-like” product with image filters, but the name Hubcap was not mentioned.