Lois van Baarle, a digital artist based in the Netherlands, joined Vimeo 13 years ago as a student studying animation, when it was still an indie creation platform. When van Baarle started creating subscriber-only Patreon content in 2020, Vimeo seemed like the best option for hosting his videos – Patreon itself didn’t offer video hosting, and YouTube didn’t have the same features to protect his work, such as check where his videos might be embedded.
“I was already paying $ 200 a year, which I think is quite expensive,” says van Baarle. “But I thought, well, it’s a quality platform.” It has uploaded 117 subscriber-only videos so far, and each only gets about 150 views on average, says van Baarle. The most viewed video of him has around 815 views.
So the notice Vimeo sent to van Baarle on March 11 shocked her. Its bandwidth usage was in the top 1% of Vimeo users, the company said, and if it wanted to continue hosting its content on the site, it would have to upgrade to a custom plan. Its quoted price: $ 3,500 per year. She was given a week to update her content, reduce bandwidth usage, or leave Vimeo.
“I’ve never had a platform contact me and say, ‘Pay or quit our platform,’ basically,” he says.
Van Baarle is far from alone in her experience. Several Patreon creators have received the same message from Vimeo over the past few months, causing a spiral of confusion and panic over the potential loss of their video work. Ultimatums for independent video creators come as Vimeo is shifting the focus to large corporate clients, leaving longtime Vimeo users looking for an alternative.
Channel 5, a popular account that does street man-style interviews, received a similar message in January. In a post on Patreon titled ” Vimeo holds our Patreon catalog hostage (an explanation) “, The creators of Channel 5 claim that upon returning from a trip they saw that their videos had disappeared from the Patreon feed, resulting in hundreds of angry messages and the loss of“ 500+ ”subscribers.
The screenshots posted by Channel 5 show their price for a new custom plan starting at $ 7,000 per year and that an upgrade or migration from Vimeo was needed.
Vimeo’s bandwidth usage is calculated using factors such as video playback, resolution, player upload and thumbnail image, download and live stream, according to the company website . Overage charges are not imposed unless an account reaches “unusually high levels” or is in the 99th percentile of users. Vimeo places this threshold at around 2-3 TB per month. In communication with interested creators, Vimeo is not shy about its policy of charging more to the best creators.
“On some high-consumption accounts (including your account), Vimeo has lost money in support of its use,” read the email alerts from company representatives. “This has become problematic for our management team and they have made the decision to implement a fair use policy where we reserve the right to charge the top 1% of the accounts that consume bandwidth based on the amount of bandwidth. band they are using “.
In a statement a The Verge Vimeo’s chief of communications Matt Anchin says that when a user hits the threshold, the company works with creators to meet their increased bandwidth needs.
“Our goal will always be to provide the best possible video solution and work with our users so they can continue to reach their audiences in high quality,” says Anchin. The company noted that over 70% of users reported for excessive bandwidth choose to upgrade to a custom plan or reduce bandwidth usage.
Over the past four or five years, Vimeo has decided not to be the YouTube alternative van Baarle and other video creators originally subscribed to. Vimeo CEO Anjali Sud spoke at length about this change in strategy, saying to The Verge last year that the goal is to be a software company for companies of “all sizes”. But in the earnings report In Vimeo’s fourth quarter 2021, the focus is on corporate customers, with Sud pointing out that some of the largest companies in the world are buying Vimeo products.
In a letter to shareholders in February, Sud explains the change in black and white: “Today we are a technological platform, not an observation destination. We are a B2B solution, not the standalone version of YouTube ”.
The change in strategy has hit Patreon users particularly hard – Patreon has encouraged the use of Vimeo as a hosting platform, with Vimeo also offering a small discount for Patreon creators. Patreon also has a Vimeo integration that allows creators to directly upload controlled content. In the case of Channel 5, the creators wrote that they didn’t realize that when they uploaded videos to Patreon, the content was actually hosted on Vimeo. But van Baarle knew he was using Vimeo, a business decision he made for over a decade.
Sunny Singh , a Patreon creator who makes live concert videos, has uploaded more than 4,000 videos to Vimeo since 2008 and was already paying around $ 900 a year for the service. Late last year, an alert appeared when he logged into his Vimeo account, warning him that bandwidth usage was getting high and that he could get news from the company on a personalized plan.
On January 11, Vimeo sent an email to Singh to warn him that, as part of the top 1% of users, he too would need to upgrade his account or reduce usage within nine days, or risk a “Interruption” of the service. Based on Vimeo’s projections, Singh’s custom plan would total $ 3,000 per year. But the top 1 percent designation left Singh puzzled: His Vimeo uploads only get about 700 views on average; most of his viewers are on YouTube, where the same content is uploaded.
Singh, who has a background in data science, requested his data from Vimeo and performed your own analysis to understand how the expected bandwidth consumption was calculated. His analysis suggested that Vimeo’s projection was higher than it should be and he used his numbers to negotiate his rate from $ 3,000 to $ 2,500. Singh had no choice but to pay the new fee: years ago he had customized his content delivery system around the Vimeo API, which is based on the videos that go there first: migrating off the platform would require him to retrain the back-end.
“I’ve paid this year, but I’m not going to pay again next year,” he says.
Vimeo says it gives users ways to monitor bandwidth usage and that the company has been in contact with Patreon during the partnership.
“We know there is always room to do better and are working to improve our transparency and communication on bandwidth usage, both inside and outside our platform,” says Anchin.
Some creators have abandoned Vimeo in the face of rising hosting rates. Van Baarle says he intends to manually upload his video content to YouTube, where he can host it for free instead of paying for a custom plan on Vimeo. Channel 5 was eventually able to retrieve their content with Patreon’s help, according to a short update early February. Without a paid upgrade, their Vimeo account was “wiped off the face of the earth,” they claim in the post. The next Channel 5 video would instead be hosted directly on Patreon: the service has begun to develop its own video platform, although for now it is only available to selected users.
“Patreon focuses on meeting the ever-changing needs of creators and supporters, and we’ve heard firsthand from both of us that relying on third-party video tools causes issues with upload limits or content losses,” Ellen Satterwhite, chief executive officer interim communications for Patreon, he says in an email. Satterwhite says a native video tool is in beta testing with a select group of creators and that the company hopes to roll it out to all users by the end of this year. The company declined to comment on whether it would continue to recommend Vimeo as a hosting platform.
Singh says Patreon has a responsibility to notify creators that their content may be at risk if they are hit by a Vimeo over-bandwidth usage warning. And he fears that even new Patreon creators who are quickly gaining popularity may enter Vimeo’s core user base and receive the same email he and others have received, with few options.