Vessel iPad
Courtesy of Vessel

Verizon is in advanced discussions to snap up Vessel, the subscription-video player founded by former Hulu chief Jason Kilar, according to a Recode report.

But what Verizon may be acquiring, if a deal actually is consummated, isn’t clear.

Vessel’s original business plan was to sell $2.99 monthly subscriptions to get early access to content from top creators on YouTube and other platforms. That hasn’t panned out the way Kilar and Vessel’s backers had hoped, and the company has recently been terminating content deals as it develops an alternate road map geared around some kind of group-video service called “Hubcap,” VideoInk reported last month. The new product is Snapchat-like app that provides features like image filters, according to an anonymous source cited by Recode.

Vessel has raised more than $134 million to date from investors including Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos’ Bezos Expeditions, IVP, Greylock Partners and Benchmark.

Verizon and Vessel reps declined to comment.

Verizon may be interested in getting its hands on Vessel’s advanced mobile-video apps, as well as its ad-serving technology and subscriber management system. Verizon could be looking to weave the Vessel tech into its Go90 mobile-video service, although the telco’s execs have previously said it is evolving Go90 to be based on AOL’s advertising and video-delivery infrastructure.

Vessel hasn’t ever disclosed how many subscribers or users it has, but asserts that its exclusive-windowing strategy and subscription service have proven to be more profitable for creators than YouTube. Kilar has claimed partners earn more than $50 in revenue per thousand views, more than ten times what they can get from purely ad-supported platforms. But without a significant number of viewers, Vessel’s more favorable economic terms wouldn’t compel digital-content producers to lock in exclusive distribution deals.

In March, Vessel said it offered more than 300,000 videos from 250 content partners. The San Francisco-based company was founded in 2013 by Kilar and Richard Tom, formerly Hulu’s CTO.

Hoping to boost subscriber rolls, the company earlier this year dropped ads from its subscription tiers and introduced a $20-per-year option. Vessel offers free, ad-supported access to video after subscription windows expire.

Current Vessel content partners include Legendary Digital Networks’ Geek & Sundry and Nerdist, Machinima, Playboy, Discovery Communications and PBS Digital Studios.

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