Before Vessel officially launched, the big question for the company was (and still is) one of consumer adoption. Currently, Vessel is featured in the App Store’s “Best New Apps” category (along with the likes of Twitter’s live-streaming app Periscope and Tastemade), where iOS users have been encouraged to check it out initially for free since March 24. (After that first free month, it goes for a monthly $2.99.) The “encouragement” seemed to work, as Vessel began trending in the app store not long after its official launch (based on a screen shot given to us by a source):
So far, the subscription video service has over 130 reviews — over 150 if you include the older versions — and though the majority of them give Vessel five stars, they’re still not exactly glowing across the board.
To put this in perspective, Periscope, Twitter’s new live-streaming video app, which is being promoted most heavily on the app store (in the number one spot with a dedicated banner at the top of the app store page) has gotten over 450 reviews, a significant portion of them with an “I love it” sentiment. Meanwhile, the relatively new video clip app Whipclip, which allows users to upload and share their favorite video clips from network TV shows and music videos alike, has just over 80 mostly positive (five star) reviews. It joined the app store just a day after Vessel.
So what do consumers think of Vessel so far? To start with the negative, a number of users are wondering why the service is so ad-heavy when it also costs money to subscribe. Though reviewers complain that it has too many ads for a paid service, it’s also important to consider that people pay for TV, and that’s rife with advertisements. Also, premium, subscription services like Hulu Plus, which Vessel founder Jason Kilar is best known for, have ads. In other words, ads on a paid subscription service haven’t exactly been a deal-breaker in the past.
A perhaps more problematic negative review for the service lies in the audio. Many reported that there were issues with sound on the app and, worse, that the app crashes the moment they start to play videos. The audio issue concerned double play, so the same audio is going at two different times per one video. Of course, no one wants to pay for an app that doesn’t work.
Still, other reviewers have called it a “better version of YouTube” and “not a bad competitor.” Others still note that they’re moving over to Vessel because that’s where their favorite YouTube stars are going, and it’s more about the content than the service for most viewers, after all. Constructive criticism includes suggestions for a “subscription feed,” so they can easily get to their favorite creators’ videos, and an easier way to search for specific content.
While exclusive, early window content on the platform comes from hugely popular YouTube creators, such as Rhett & Link, Epic Meal Time, Ingrid Nilsen, GloZell Green, Machinima, Meredith Foster, and more, it’s all still content that will be available for free not long after (can’t most people wait 72 hours in exchange for free content?). Tastemade content will also be available only on Vessel before coming out elsewhere…like Tastemade’s own, free app.
Still, the thinking of major fans (and even minor fans) might be that $2.99 a month isn’t a large price to pay, and it might be worth the lack of wait for many. The video platform also offered a year-long, free subscription to users who signed up within the first 72 hours after its public launch on March 24, at which time it also announced its exclusive distribution rights to the fifth season of Machinima’s popular, animated series, “Battlefield Friends.” Getting users accustomed to having the service for a year will make them more likely to pay when the free year is up, especially at such a low price, and content that’s always exclusive (instead of just temporarily) and already established as popular serves as a reliable draw for fans to go for the subscription.
Though it’s too early to say whether an early trending status and largely (but not consistently) positive reviews mean long-term success for the service, it’s worth taking a look at the users’ initial reception of the app. You know what they say about first impressions…