In Depth

Yahoo Tries Again on Web Originals

Tests Nightly Roundup of TV Tidbits to Boost Viewership

In a bid to stay relevant in the fast-moving online video world, Yahoo has launched a daily Web show called “Primetime in No Time,” a recap of what was on television the night before.

It’s a genre of programming that developed on TV (examples include E!’s “The Soup” and VH1’s “Best Week Ever”) and has manifested itself on the Web with programs like AOL’s “TV Squad Daily With Brigitte.”

For Yahoo, it represents a foray into original programming after the company built up—then backed away from—in-house production.

“We are trying to find the sweet spot with original content where we can complement what users are already doing, but give them a different perspective,” said Karen Gilford, VP and general manager for entertainment at Yahoo. “It also helps differentiate Yahoo in the video space.”

Most “Primetime in No Time” episodes run two to three minutes, with a host intro and then clips from TV programs. Verizon currently is sponsoring the show.

Yahoo is facing the reality of lagging far behind Web video destination YouTube, which in January accounted for more than one-third of the 9.8 billion videos viewed online in the U.S. With 6%, Fox Interactive Media was second, followed by Yahoo with 3%. That divide gives Yahoo room to experiment.

Yahoo’s strength in Web video lies in its relationship with advertisers. Because Yahoo has focused on professionally produced videos, it has been able to land marketers such as Nissan and Pepsi for many of its online projects.

With the new show, Verizon is advertising its FiOS TV service in bumper ads, banner ads and the new “clickable” ad format Yahoo rolled out last month. That’s an important development, since most online video experts contend that consumers are tired of the pre-roll spots that run before a video.

The new clickable ads from Yahoo let users click on an ad as it plays in the video screen, rather than on a companion banner ad, said Cheryl Kellond, VP of product strategy at Yahoo.
In early tests, the clickable format proved more effective, with click-through rates on average coming in 400% to 700% higher than with traditional video ads and companion banner ads, she said.

Uphill Climb
The show is designed to complement Yahoo’s existing relationship with TV networks, since the site often runs clips, promos and occasionally full episodes. That aligns with Verizon’s media strategy this year, said Barbara Boody, group manager for media at Verizon Telecom.

“That was to reposition the brand and allow consumers to see us as more of an entertainment provider and not just a phone company,” she said.

Verizon also is following consumers as they move online. Ad spending in online video should hit $1.4 billion this year, according to eMarketer.

Some experts have doubts about how effective Yahoo will be in online video. Traffic to captures just about 1% of Web traffic to television-related Web sites, said Bill Tancer, general manager of global research at online audience measurement firm Hitwise.

Also, Yahoo hasn’t been terribly active in original video programming, said Will Richmond, a broadband video analyst and editor of the blog

“That’s a shift from its much heralded plans from several years ago to be a leader in this space,” he said. “Yahoo’s management and strategy changes have no doubt had an impact on its original video game plan. Meanwhile, a wide range of other companies have moved forward very aggressively in original online video programming.”