clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

YouTube Challenger Vessel Starts Showing Off Its Service, and a Slick New Ad Format

The guy who brought you Hulu has a new video service and a new way of showcasing ads.

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.

Last month former Hulu CEO Jason Kilar gave a few people a glimpse of Vessel, his new video service. Now many more of you can see it for yourselves: The startup is starting to open up its doors to the general public, starting with people who’ve asked for access.

I haven’t seen much of it myself, so there’s no point in describing it at length to you when you can look on your own. But I do recall thinking it was a very clean, well-lit place, which is meant to be attractive to both content owners/makers and advertisers.

About those advertisers, who include Corona, Chevy, and Axe: One of the most striking things I saw when Kilar gave me a quick tour in December was a new ad format his team had created. I don’t know what they’re calling it*, but it’s basically a static image that becomes animated when you scroll by it — and lets you keep scrolling if you’re not interested. Sort of like if you were flipping through the pages of a magazine and landed on an ad that suddenly came to life.

Again, this is makes more sense if you’re looking at Vessel on an iPad or an iPhone. (Users can also look at Vessel at its Web site, and it will eventually work on Android devices, as well as connected TVs, etc. But Kilar figures most usage is going to occur on small, hand-held screens, where his core audience is used to watching videos.) But it’s very slick, and you can get a sense of it here:

None of this will matter if Vessel doesn’t get users, and Vessel will have hard time getting users unless it can sign up more video-makers for its service, which offers a free version and a $3-a-month one that will give people an early look at videos before they show up on YouTube or anywhere else.

Part of this extended rollout is designed to attract more YouTube stars to sign on, and Vessel says they’re making progress, though most of YouTube’s biggest names remain with YouTube for now.

That said, Vessel is most definitely generating a lot of attention at YouTube itself: At CES this month I spoke with a YouTube exec who told me the company was “obsessed” with Vessel.

I’m pretty interested in Vessel, and Kilar, myself. Which is why I’m happy we get to talk to him, along with an all-star lineup of speakers, next month at our Code/Media conference in Dana Point. You can join us by registering here.

*BREAKING NEWS: Vessel says it’s calling the format a “brand’s motion poster” or “motion poster”, for short.

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.