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Vessel Raises Another Big Round to Help Fund Its Fight With YouTube

$58 million led by IVP. Benchmark, Greylock and Jeff Bezos are back, too.

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.

Vessel, the startup run by former Hulu CEO Jason Kilar, is still more of a question than a company: Will people really pay $3 a month to see video clips a few days earlier than the rest of the Web?

But it’s certainly an intriguing question, and now Kilar has raised more money to help him find out. Vessel has raised close to $58 million in a new round led by Institutional Venture Partners; the funding comes less than a year after Vessel raised $77 million from Greylock, Benchmark and Jeff Bezos, all of whom re-upped for this round. (An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Vessel’s first round was $79 million.)

Add all that up, plus whatever money Kilar and co-founder Rich Tom put into the company at the start, and Vessel’s total is likely north of $140 million. A short blog post from the company doesn’t say what it’s doing with that money, but it’s easy to make an educated guess: It’s going to spend a lot of it trying to acquire content, both for stuff it can show exclusively to subscribers for a three-day “window,” and for stuff anyone can see.

Vessel has been trying to land content deals for much of the last year, and so far the results are a bit of a grab bag. That’s in part because YouTube, which takes Vessel very seriously, has been working hard to keep its home-grown stars from heading over to Kilar. The world’s biggest video site is using a combination of cash, promotional muscle and other goodies to keep talent on its platform; YouTube is also putting together its own subscription service.

There’s a lot of skepticism in the industry about Vessel’s model, but a lot of interest, too. At a minimum, today’s money means the experiment will continue for that much longer. Here, again, is the video of my conversation with Kilar at our Code/Media conference in February, where he explained what he’s trying to do and why he thinks it will work.

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