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Vimeo Says It's Going to Sell Video Subscriptions, Too

Netflix does it. HBO says it's going to do it. YouTube says it might. Now comes Barry Diller's video site.

Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki says she’s probably going to get into the ad-free subscription business.

Vimeo CEO Kerry Trainor says he’s definitely going to do it. “We’re working on it,” he said in an interview with Re/code. “The shovels are in the ground.”

Trainor says his video service, owned by Barry Diller’s IAC, wouldn’t start selling subscriptions until next year. But beyond that, he wouldn’t offer details about the timing, pricing or content of the subscriptions he’s going to sell.

Vimeo’s pre-announcement comes as all sorts of video companies explore digital subscription models. HBO has already said it will sell its pay-TV service on the Web next year, and CBS is already doing it. Several Web video companies, including Fullscreen, the company owned by AT&T and the Chernin Group, and Vessel, the new startup from former Hulu CEO Jason Kilar, are planning subscription services.

Trainor was willing to talk about the rationale for his strategy. He noted that Vimeo has already been in the subscription business for six years — it sells premium versions of its free service to more than 500,000 users, who pay for features like extra storage and more sophisticated publishing tools. And for the last year and a half, Vimeo has also been selling content, by letting video makers sell and rent their stuff on his site.

That effort has been going well, Trainor says, and “the thing that tells us is that users are really excited and willing to pay for a whole world of content that’s just not making it to them via existing pay channels.”

Last night at Re/code’s Code/Mobile conference, Wojcicki said she was thinking about creating subscription services that would let viewers watch some content without ads. “There are going to be cases where people are going to say, ‘I don’t want to see the ads,’ or ‘I want to have a different experience,’” she said. “We’re thinking about how to give users options.”

YouTube is giant, with more than a billion visitors per month; earlier this year, Vimeo said it has 135 million monthly visitors. But Trainor says he’s skeptical that YouTube and Google will be successful with an ad-free subscription product, since the companies have been built on advertising revenue.

“It goes deeper into Google’s fundamental DNA,” he said. “They’re an ad-based company. That’s what they do exceptionally well.”

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