We knew monetization on Vimeo was coming sooner or later, and after they introduced Tip Jar back in September, they also discussed some early plans for a Pay-to-View/online VOD service sometime in the near future. Today they introduced that service in a strictly test run format: Vimeo Movies. While it will not be open to the public until next year, they currently have six films available, and will release more before the service launches in full. If you're a Vimeo PRO member, you'll already be on your way to selling your film when the service comes out of private beta, but what about the rest of Vimeo's users?

First, here's the introduction to Vimeo Movies:

Here is a little bit from their mission statement with this initiative:

Our mission is to support totally original video and the people who create it, which means providing more than a home. It means creating an environment where creators can access the resources to make their next film, and the one after that. Our new pay-to-view service enables creators to upload and distribute work that they depend on for their livelihood, all with easy setup and affordable rates. In turn, our community gets access to amazing work from the world’s leading filmmakers.

Vimeo is one of the bigger names in online streaming, but it's really the community that has been built around the service that has helped differentiate itself from the pack. Since it was built for artists, the focus has been on providing a way for people to come together to share their work in a positive way. Some may argue it's too positive, but personally I prefer a community of artists talking about work as opposed to the wild west that is YouTube comments.

This is where Vimeo Movies comes in. We've seen a few independently focused distribution platforms close their doors, but like with any new service, it's all about building an audience. That's one advantage I see with Vimeo already: it's not quite as saturated as YouTube (which can be either positive or negative), but it does have a sizable audience of artists that ranges from amateurs all the way to professionals working in Hollywood. That makes the service intriguing already for many reasons, but the key area where many have so far been unsuccessful is in reaching critical mass -- which, of course, Vimeo already has. If you're wondering how this is going to work, here is a brief list of what you can expect early next year:

  • Easy Setup: Create your own custom destination, set your price and find your audience.
  • Set Your Own Price: Sell your work how you want, where you want and at the price you want.
  • Robust Analytics: Learn who's watching your movie to help fine-tune your marketing efforts.
  • Playable on All Devices: Your movies will play on smart phones, tablets, game consoles and connected TVs. And the Internet.
  • Simple, Built-In Sharing: You and your fans can instantly share your content to Facebook and Twitter.
  • No Middleman: Connect directly to your fans without any distribution gatekeepers.

It's clear that Vimeo is making a distinction between its users. If you want to be a part of the community and utilize the website by uploading limited amounts of your own work, there are free accounts available. If you want to share the highest quality work possible, but also want some flexibility in the way the work is viewed and have the ability to let people donate to your videos, they have their Plus accounts at $60 a year. If you are a business or you're a user who is interested in making real money from your videos, that's where the $200-a-year PRO account comes in. That's the clear line between users on the site, and if you want to sell your work, then a PRO account is going to be your only option.

A lot of details are still not yet finalized on how the Pay-to-View service will work (or if there will be any additional fees/costs involved), but if a PRO account is all that is required to sell your movie online, I think the platform is very intriguing for many different types of users. Some have complained in the past about other services that take a rather large percentage of the revenue split for a meager audience. Then there is the other side of the equation with platforms like iTunes having the largest online audience as a pay-per-view service -- but it's also one of the most difficult and expensive to get on. Vimeo has not talked about any revenue split or fee at this time, but it will be interesting to see what happens since they are far more focused on the community aspects of distribution (though making money probably doesn't hurt).

The last piece of the puzzle is curation. It's likely Vimeo will promote higher-profile projects to "sell" their service just like any other distribution platform would, but the biggest problem for independent distribution is people easily finding and buying your movie. Will it work like Netflix and try to suggest films that you may like based on your past viewing habits, or will all of the movies simply be organized in whatever category they've been labeled in, and users will have to go out of their way to find them?

Either way, for artists, it still likely won't replace audience-building. While the methods have changed dramatically with social media, as a creator you're still competing for eyeballs in an extremely fast-paced media world. I'm personally excited to see what kind of analytics might come from this service, as those sorts of statistics can help you target your audience directly and help you when you're planning to create or release your next film.

There are six films currently on the service, though availability is not worldwide for all of the films. The prices range from $5 to $9, and access to the video once you've purchased it varies from 48 hours to 2 months. So it's clear from those selections and the way they are structured that Vimeo is going to be tailored to the creator. That's certainly positive news for anyone who's in the process or will be selling a film by the time the service launches, but we'll have to wait and see how it plays out early next year.

What do you guys think about the platform? Would getting a PRO account be worth it for you to sell a movie? How about curation, how do you think that will work? Have you had any success so far with other independent distribution platforms in the past?

Link: Vimeo Movies