The Vimeo CEO Succeeded by Saying No to Spending Billions

(Bloomberg Businessweek) -- Four years ago, video-sharing website Vimeo found itself competing with YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, and HBO in a race to develop original content. Even at that time, getting in front of that rich field was unlikely. Then production budgets in the industry went bananas, going from mere millions of dollars to billions.

Into this battle for Vimeo’s future entered Anjali Sud. She joined the company in 2014 to run marketing, and while talking to the site’s core users at trade shows, she kept hearing how hard it was for aspiring moviemakers to affordably host, monetize, and get attention for their work. She began offering more tools to these creators, from immersive capabilities such as 360-degree video to less flashy features like click-rate tracking technology. Her department’s revenue and satisfaction scores surged just as it was becoming clear that Vimeo would never be able to secure top producers such as Shonda Rhimes, who in 2017 signed a 15-year deal with Netflix Inc. that included an annual base salary of $10 million.

Sud wasn’t the only executive who thought Vimeo, which is owned by IAC/InterActiveCorp, should return to its roots as a platform for professionals. But her success made the case easy. “Of course I had to advocate, but it was really the results they saw,” she says. Now 34, Sud was made chief executive officer last year, the latest in a long line of young IAC talents, such as Dara Khosrowshahi, who at 36 ascended to CEO at IAC’s Expedia Group Inc. and now runs Uber Technologies Inc.

Under Sud, Vimeo has doubled down on catering to filmmakers, to create what she calls “an agnostic distribution hub.” In February the site released a one-click feature that sends video to many sites, including Facebook and even old foe YouTube, easing a previously baffling mess of formatting and coding. Last year the site acquired Livestream, which lets creators broadcast in real time.

Vimeo has 80 million members and 900,000 paid subscribers, each paying from $7 to $75 per month; the site remains ad-free. “Everyone uses Vimeo,” says Joana Vicente, executive director of Independent Filmmaker Project, the industry’s blue chip nonprofit. “For IFP Week, we have over 1,000 submissions, and every link is Vimeo.”

Members can start their own channels, whether a mix of action-sports footage, long-form documentaries, or animation reels. So while Vimeo is technically still in competition with Netflix, it’s from a new angle: “Anyone can become a filmmaker and launch their own Netflix,” Sud says.

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