Magazine article Variety

Yahoo Tries Its Luck with Yuks

Magazine article Variety

Yahoo Tries Its Luck with Yuks

Article excerpt

Biggest slate yet could get a boost from 'SNL' library, binge viewing

Broadcasters won't be the only place to boast new comedy series next month.

In its most aggressive bet yet in original online video, Yahoo will launch eight shortform comedy series Sept. 9.

Yahoo has tried its hand at comedy before, including a smaller block last year headlined by a live standup perf from Bill Maher. But now the portal has a bazooka in its laffer arsenal: a collection of nearly 5,000 "Saturday Night Live" clips spanning the past 38 years, under pact with Broadway Video. (NBC and Hulu retain online rights to full episodes of "SNL.")

The portal plans to draw in users with "SNL" sketches, peppered on its homepage and elsewhere, then guide them to other video content.

"We'll put the Yahoo secret sauce to work - in my mind, that is our ability to marry great technology with great content," said Erin McPherson, Yahoo veep and head of video.

The strategy borrows from TV in presenting a slate of shows, debuting in the traditional fall timeframe. Several of the skeins feature brand-name talent including Jack Black, John Stamos, Ed Helms and Zachary Levi (NBC's "Chuck").

In addition, the approach adopts Netflix's binge-viewing philosophy, as Yahoo will offer nearly all 100 episodes of the originals at once along with the "SNL" material. Yahoo already pumps out a ton of video: Its websites cumulatively served up 324 million clips in July, per comScore. But most of that is via syndicated partners.

As far as original entertainment programming, Yahoo has seen few hits. Its most successful may have been "Burning Love," a scripted spoof of the reality dating genre that notched 11 million views for the first season last year and was picked up by the E! cable network.

Among the disappointments are the animated sci-fi series from Tom Hanks "Electric City," which Yahoo had hyped as a potential "digital blockbuster." Yahoo declined to furnish numbers for the Hanks skein, but a rep said the company was "very happy with the viewership and the types of audience it brought to the network."

The challenge for Yahoo is that the vast majority of users, numbering nearly 700 million worldwide per month, aren't expecting to visit the site to be entertained. "You can't dispute the scale and reach Yahoo offers," said Adam Shlachter, senior VP of media for ad agency Dígitas. "But the big question is whether they can not only retain audience but attract a new audience. …

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