Former Hulu Chief Kilar Raises $58 Million for Vessel Video Site

Trying to Take on YouTube With a Netflix-Like Subscriber Model

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A selection of video available on Vessel
A selection of video available on Vessel

Vessel, the closely held video startup led by former Hulu chief Jason Kilar, has raised $57.5 million more to fund its new subscription business for short-form video, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

The investment was led by Institutional Venture Partners, Mr. Kilar said in a statement announcing the funding round without providing a sum or valuation for the company. At $57.5 million, however, it brings Vessel's outside funding to more than $134 million. The new round includes investors previously tapped by Kilar, including Benchmark Capital, Greylock Partners and Bezos Expeditions, the personal investment company of Inc.'s Jeff Bezos.

The company is trying to emulate Netflix's subscription business with a focus on short-form video. That brings it into direct competition with Google's YouTube, which is also developing a subscription product.

Vessel will invest some of the money in video rights, marketing and additional staff to expand and improve a service that opened to the public three weeks ago, said the person, who wasn't authorized to speak publicly and sought anonymity.

Vessel has about 40 employees, said the person with knowledge of the matter.

"If you had to back one team to build the world's most advanced and user friendly video platform, this would be the team," Todd Chaffee, general partner at Institutional Venture Partners, said in a blog post.

Like YouTube, Vessel features clips from traditional media partners, such as "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," and personalities that became famous online, including stunt troupe EpicMealTime. Unlike YouTube, Vessel isn't an open platform. It approves videos that appear on the app or website.

The company has attempted to entice fans to subscribe to its $2.99 monthly service by securing the rights to show some videos before they can appear anywhere else. In February it announced a deal for exclusive rights to music videos from Universal Music Group, the largest record label in the world.

"Our content team is working hard to bring you early access to even more of your favorites (like 'Ellen') and to respond to the thousands of creators who have applied to offer their videos on Vessel," Mr. Kilar said in the statement. " Our engineering team is working hard, too, to bring people more of the features they've asked us for and to make Vessel available in more of the places people want it."

~ Bloomberg News ~

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