Vimeo's planned SVOD service is a no-go

Vimeo Andy Margetson (Andy Margetson)
Vimeo has ditched its planned SVOD service but will still host member accounts like this one belonging to Andy Margetson.

Vimeo, the video platform controlled by Barry Diller’s IAC Corp., has ditched its announced plan to roll out a subscription online video service featuring original programming.

The company’s interim CEO, Joey Levin, had previously been bullish on the plan, and Vimeo had seen some success with shows like “High Maintenance,” a critical darling acquired by HBO. “Vimeo has the once-in-a-generation opportunity to, following in Netflix’s footsteps, deliver compelling subscription viewing experiences for consumers in the market for pay TV,” Levin wrote in a letter to shareholders last November. He cited Vimeo’s creator and user community, plus the company’s analytics, as key advantages.

On Monday, as initially reported by The Hollywood Reporter, Levin released a new statement explaining the reversal. “This was a difficult decision—the idea of pursuing an SVOD service for Vimeo has always been intriguing,” Levin said. “The opportunity ahead for Vimeo to empower creators is too large and too important for us to attack with anything other than absolute focus and clarity.”

Alana Mayo, who left Paramount Pictures in March to join Vimeo as its head of originals, is exiting the company and her development team has been dissolved.

More than 100 standalone OTT services now serve U.S. viewers. While the growth of new entries is slowing, the market is still saturated. As top SVOD platforms Netflix, Amazon and Hulu collectively spend more than $12 billion a year on original content, the economics are daunting.

Vimeo, founded in 2004, predates YouTube. Its core business is providing a subscription-based, high-grade video platform geared toward creators such as filmmakers and branded content specialists. It also has VHX, a back-end solution enabling creators to launch their own OTT services. While it has provided steady income, generating tens of millions in quarterly revenue, it is still a small piece of Diller’s empire.

Executives have long felt the platform could be much bigger. Levin argued in last November’s letter that Vimeo could create a “robust slate of programming for tens of millions, not billions, of dollars” by supplementing creators’ work with original and licensed content.

In a major push at CES last January, Levin and other Vimeo executives were touting their original programming plans. As of that time, the company had more than 741,000 filmmakers active on the site, 20 million monthly viewers and 100 million videos.