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Vessel Strikes Deal With Universal Music for Exclusive Access to Some Music Videos

Vessel seeks to differentiate itself from other online video services, like YouTube, by offering exclusive, early access to content.

Video startup Vessel has reached an agreement with Universal Music Group for exclusive early access to some of the music label’s videos.

It’s not clear which artist videos will be offered through Vessel’s paid tier, but the arrangement nonetheless would create competitive pressure on sites like YouTube, which relies on music videos for more than a third of its video views. It’s also worth noting this means Vessel will have a leg up on video-hosting site Vevo, which is part-owned by Universal Music.

Vessel describes itself as an “early access” service that gives subscribers who pay $3 a month for three days of exclusive access to short-form, professionally produced content. After that period, videos can be posted elsewhere online, including on Vessel’s free, ad-supported offering.

The video service is the brainchild of Hulu’s founding chief executive, Jason Kilar, who built an Internet TV service that won acclaim for its clutter-free design and for providing online access to the current season’s primetime shows.

Kilar left Hulu in 2013, after clashing with the site’s owners, News Corp (now 21st Century Fox), NBCUniversal* and the Walt Disney Co.

Kilar has been working in stealth mode on his latest video venture, which borrows from some of the successes of Hulu. Vessel provides a free, ad-supported version of its website and mobile app, and a subscription offering that features early, exclusive access to content.

The service was unveiled in December and is still in beta testing. Both Kilar and Universal Music Group Chairman Lucian Grainge are scheduled to appear today at the Code/Media conference in Laguna Niguel, Calif.

Since announcing the service in December, Vessel has signed a number of prominent YouTube creators and digital networks to its platform, including Machinima, Tastemade, Epic Meal Time, Nerdist Industries, Unbox Therapy and others. Warner Music Group agreed to offer an early, three-day exclusive window on some of its music videos through the subscription service.

The free version of Vessel also will distribute videos from humor sites like Funny or Die and CollegeHumor; music videos from Vevo and Warner Music Group; sports videos from companies like Major League Soccer; news from Time Inc., the New York Times, and BuzzFeed, and videos from organizations like TED.

* NBCUniversal is a minority investor in Revere Digital, Recode’s parent company.

This post has been updated to note that Warner Music participates in both the paid and free Vessel services.

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