Yahoo Finally Has a Show that Competes with Netflix, Hulu and Amazon

-NBC’s ‘Community’ Moves to Yahoo Screen
-Needs Two More Talked-About Series to Gain Its OTT Footing

Marissa Mayer has done it. After months of Yahoo sniffing around for a stand-out original series, the company announced this week it has stuck a deal with Sony Pictures Television (SPT) to migrate NBC’s cult comedy show “Community” to Yahoo Screen. Yahoo Screen is Yahoo’s OTT site, and is available as an app on tablets, browsers, smartphones, and can be streamed to the TV set on Roku NTBs.

“Community” was canceled this year after its fifth season on NBC. Yahoo will produce the sixth season and distribute it on Yahoo’s ad-supported OTT network, Yahoo Screen. “Community” will join other NBC fare, including past seasons of “Saturday Night Live.”

Speculation after the canceling indicated that Hulu may pick up the show. Sony (for Crackle) and Hulu were reportedly in talks to do so, but Yahoo must have offered Sony a better deal.


Cast of “Community”

The show acquisition is great news for Marissa Mayer. She has declared that 2014 will be the year for Yahoo’s original content to shine. Mayer sees video as a core area of Yahoo’s business, and has made it one of the company’s priorities to bolster its online video offerings and subsequent ad revenue.

“Video has gone from being a novelty to a daily habit for millions of users,” Mayer said during the company’s Q4 2013 earnings call. “With the right content, we can achieve scale on video and in particular mobile video. That’s why we’ll focus on bringing the best partner content from across the Web to our users.”

At last count, Yahoo is spending $500 million on original content. This year, the company made its intentions known: calling Netflix’s “House of Cards” strategy “very, very clever,” Yahoo’s SVP of EMEA, Dawn Airey, told The Guardian earlier this year it needs a few breakout original series to put it on the map. Airey said Yahoo is looking to launch series with global audience appeal.

Yahoo Originals Are Impressive but No Breakouts
With respect to original content, Yahoo is lagging behind its OTT cohorts in terms of buzz and viewers, though Yahoo has amassed a significant library of content.

Many of its originals have well-known actors involved, both on-screen and off screen:

-The sci-fi animated series “Electric City,” backed and narrated by Tom Hanks; “Tiny Commando,” created by and starring Ed Helms of “The Office” and “Community” star Gillian Jacobs; “We Need Help,” with actors Cheryl Hine and Rachel Harris; “Losing Your Virginity with John Stamos,” in which Stamos interviews celebrities and reenacts scenes with puppets; and Jack Black’s Electric Dynamite Productions comedy Web series called “Ghost Girls.”

And we can’t forget the comedy series called “Burning Love,” which entered its third season on Yahoo’s online video portal Yahoo Screen this year. That show has proven to be such a success that pay TV channel E! Entertainment picked it up and has aired seasons one and two in its late-night programming slots.

The new originals this year are similarly packed with big names, but we’ll have to wait and see if the content stands out among the ever-growing pool of Web series currently vying for eyeballs. The new shows from Yahoo include:

– “Other Space,” a futuristic sci-fi comedy from three-time Emmy nominee Paul Feig (“Freaks and Geeks,” “Bridesmaids,” “The Office”).

-“Sin City Saints,” a comedy set in the front office of a fictional pro basketball expansion team, from executive producer Mike Tollin (“One Tree Hill,” “Smallville,” “Varsity Blues”) and two-time Emmy nominated director Bryan Gordon (“Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “The Office,” “Party Down”).

Yahoo also has commissioned original content specific to the UK, including the show “The Shizzle,” hosted by celebrity Jamie Laing.


Buzz and Acclaim – Hulu distributed “The Wrong Mans”

None of these shows has gained buzz and acclaim on par with what Netflix experienced with its many originals, what Amazon received for “Alpha House,” Sony’s Crackle with “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” or what Hulu has enjoyed with “The Wrong Mans” and “Deadbeat.” Even AOL’s series, such as Sarah Jessica Parker’s ballet series, has gained more attention and probably ad dollars than anything Yahoo is doing.

The “Community” acquisition is sure to grab not only headlines, but eyeballs, which is just what Yahoo needs to get users to try out its OTT platform. There will be something of a “Community Effect” here: viewers come for the cult TV show, and stay for the other content.

Yahoo Rules in OTT Syndication Deals
Those new viewers will have plenty to watch on Yahoo Screen. Outside of original content, Yahoo has done an impressive job of amassing other exclusive and non-exclusive content deals that arguably add a lot of value to the OTT network.

-Yahoo expanded its deal with Vevo earlier this spring, which gives Yahoo access to Vevo’s concerts, original programming and the 100,000-plus artist music videos. The Vevo content is available across Yahoo’s apps and platforms outside the US, and specifically on Yahoo Screen.

-It has a 38-season library of “Saturday Night Live” episodes.

-Yahoo has a deal with CNBC to share financial news content, and it already has a deal with ABC News that includes content.

-Sky News’ morning news show “Sunrise” and three new video news series on all of its Web sites in 177 countries. The two co-commissioned three new series: A current affairs debate called “Thinking Aloud”; a personal finance show called “Loose Change”; a series of shorts about young UK inventors called “The Lab.” Yahoo also streams Sky News’ live shows during breaking news events.

-It also has an online video hub for WWE fans, which will include a pre-match show “Monday Night Raw” and other weekly wrestling round-up series.

Yahoo Doesn’t Need to Buy another Online Video Network
Part of Mayer’s strategy for bolstering online video has been to acquire an established online video network. This strategy has failed for Yahoo, perhaps because Mayer hasn’t been willing to pay the big bucks now required for such an acquisition.

Yahoo has been looking to lure some of YouTube’s content creators over to Yahoo. It has been offering YouTube creators better revenue margins on its online video platform. So far, no one has chomped. So instead, it has tried to outright buy multi-channel network Fullscreen, with a $250 million bid made last week.

Yahoo has a number of failed takeovers:

-Yahoo was reportedly in talks to acquire News Distribution Networks (NDN), according to a report in the Wall Street Journal this spring. NDN sits in fourth place in comScore’s top online video properties. It curates content from a number of broadcasters, including AP, CBS News, Bloomberg,, AFP, CNET, E! Online, Entertainment Tonight, Rachel Ray and Fox Sports. NDN also features local content direct from over 200 affiliates all over the country.

-It placed a $600-$800 million bid for Hulu during Hulu’s unconsumated auction.

-It also tried to purchase 75% of France Telecom’s online video portal Dailymotion in 2012.

Instead of trying to buy its way toward viewer eyeballs, Yahoo should focus on…

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