Vimeo to take on Brightcove, Ooyala for video hosting

Vimeo is mostly known as a place for semi-professional video producers to host their online video files, but the site is now looking to extend its infrastructure for commercial use by small and medium-sized businesses at a fraction of the cost of other video hosting solutions. With a new Vimeo Pro product priced at $199 a year, the IAC-owned site (s IACI) is hoping to undercut the competition and add a whole new revenue stream to its business.

Over the years, Vimeo has primarily been viewed as an alternative to YouTube. (s GOOG) With a flashy video player and fewer restrictions on uploads file sizes, many users turned to Vimeo in part because it had a higher-quality look-and-feel to it, as well as a generally more artistic community contributing to the site. But in the last year or so, YouTube has narrowed that gap by improving the video quality of its player, putting fewer restrictions on upload file sizes and working to build a robust producer ecosystem.

With that in mind, Vimeo is looking to leverage the infrastructure it’s already built out for casual or semi-professional video producers and to extend it to small and medium-sized businesses that need video hosting but don’t want to shell out hundreds of dollars a month for an online video platform like Brightcove or Ooyala.

Vimeo Pro videos won’t be part of, but will be able to hosted at the customer’s own site. Vimeo Pro also offers features that aren’t available to free users, including customizable “portfolio” websites and players, review pages that can be shared before a video goes public, advanced reporting and analytics, social media sharing tools and advanced privacy settings.

The Vimeo Pro offering costs just $199 a year, and includes 50GB of storage and 250,000 plays. Users that need more storage can buy it in increments of 50GB for $199 each. And for those that need more video plays, they can be purchased in increments of 100,000 views for an additional $199. Brightcove’s lowest-price offering, which allows users to manage up to 50 videos and includes just 40 GB of bandwidth, is $99 a month by comparison.

While cheaper than other video hosting solutions, it’s important to note that Vimeo’s Pro offering doesn’t offer the same types of distribution or advertising tools that come with some other online video platforms. It’s primarily focused on businesses that want to build engagement with users or customers by adding a video component to their own websites, not publishing out to multiple distribution points.

That said, Vimeo’s announcement follows a trend of companies offering ultra-cheap — or in some cases free — video hosting to capture the small and medium-sized business market. LongTail Video recently made its Bits on the Run product free for entry-level users, although the amount of hosting and transfer that’s actually free — 1GB of platform usage and 5GB of video transfer — is incredibly small. Meanwhile, San Francisco-based VidCaster recently launched its video-hosting platform with pricing starting at $39 a month for 10GB of storage and 50GB of bandwidth.