Vimeo Previews Its Pay-To-View Movie Service, Adding Another Monetization Option For Content Owners

Over the years, Vimeo has operated mostly as a free, ad-supported video aggregator for video content creators, sort of like an arthouse YouTube. Over the years, it’s lagged behind YouTube, which has grown to be the largest online video distributor in the world. But! Vimeo still has a large community of contributors and viewers who are into its sort of high-value, high-quality video content.

And so, Vimeo has been trying to find ways to monetize that content. It began that quest way back in 2009 with Vimeo Plus, which created a freemium business model for hardcore users of the site. Last year it continued its monetization push with the introduction of Vimeo Pro, a low-cost video hosting platform for small businesses and marketers that is positioned to compete against the likes of Brightcove and Ooyala.

Now Vimeo is looking for new ways that its content providers to make money off of the videos that they publish. In September it launched a “tip jar” that content creators could use to attract donations from viewers. The company is now looking to extend that commerce capability to enable creators to set the prices some users pay to access their videos.

Today, Vimeo is launching the preview version of its upcoming “pay-to-view” service, highlighted by six films that viewers will be able to pay to access not only through the Vimeo website, but also through mobile, tablet, and other connected devices that its videos are available on. Users who purchase a video will have it show up in their “Watch Later” lists, whether viewing in a web browser, iPad, Apple TV, Samsung TV, or Roku streaming device.

The six films included in the preview are:

Interestingly enough, the service enables content owners to determine their own monetization terms — including price, amount of time available to viewers, and even geographic availability. All of the movies listed in the preview are priced differently and available for different lengths of time — from a couple of days to weeks. And check out the LCD Soundsystem documentary Shut Up And Play The Hits, which is available in the UK on Vimeo, but no other markets.

The goal is to provide content creators the flexibility to monetize under their own terms, Vimeo CEO Kerry Trainor told me by phone. That comes in contrast to most other video commerce platforms, which tend to have set pricing or at least set timing during which they can view acquired content.

IAC-owned Vimeo is based in New York City, and reaches more than 85 million viewers per month, according to comScore data. It plans to make the pay-to-view capability available to Pro users beginning in early 2013.