By Jocelyn Johnson
Vessel continues its uphill battle. The latest hiccup — creator and publisher frustration after its team began terminating contracts across multiple categories. According to various sources who work with talent, Vessel either found contractual reasons to exit from the deals or told agents, managers, and talent directly that the early-access streaming platform was terminating any contracts that did not fit in tech, gaming, genre, or geek genres. The move comes only a few weeks since Vessel lost its head of partnerships to Verizon’s go90, a post which has been absorbed by SVP Jean-Paul (JP) Colaco. Sources also note there has been a revolving door on the employment at Vessel, across departments.
What’s more surprising is that the company may already be looking to sell it’s core product. Though Vessel launched publicly only a year and a half ago, it is said to be exploring a sale, with recent staffing losses, trimming of contracts and other internal changes signaling the struggle the company faces in capturing the market. If you’ve been tracking our coverage of Vessel over the last year and a half, then you know, I’ve been rooting for the business to work. Vessel’s success would demonstrate a value chain for IP and further establish an economic model for creators and publishers. A Vessel spokesperson notes that while the company is trimming contracts, the volume of deals are up 50% from last summer and that the company is simply iterating based on consumer behavior and what’s already working.
But, according to sources, Vessel has continuously struggled. The audience conversion is slower than anticipated. Creator commitment to advanced windowing has been unreliable. Brands aren’t on board for advertising against such limited scale, especially at a high dollar CPM like Vessel has tried to command. The company has been in the works on a branded content studio, as well. By those tokens, rumor mill has it that Vessel is looking to spin out the current platform and sell it while the team focuses on another covert product development.
According to executives close to the company, Vessel has quietly been working on a group video product, a project called Hubcap, that could become a focus for the remaining capital that the company has raised, ($120 million in total). Sources claim it could be an extension of a feature that Vessel rolled out in December called “Threads.”
Vessel’s spokesperson declined to comment on the nature of the potential sale and about the development of a new product.
Sale or not, Vessel has seen traction in the genre and geek categories, where it will now double down. Such a move shifts Vessel into a competitive set with companies like Ellation’s new channel — VRV. It’s also said to have had success in delivering on its guarantee for $50 CPMs for creators, and overall, according to those I’ve spoken with, creators like Vessel and its offer. The reality is that it’s very early in Vessel’s arc for any major opinions on the fortitude of the business. Changing paradigms is an even slower play game than building a subscription business and Vessel is trying to do both. Despite its recent HR shifts, Vessel’s core senior team are Hulu alums, led by former Hulu CEO Jason Kilar. That stability, paired with the team’s experience in building slow-build businesses and its deep bank account ($120 million raised in total).