Yahoo Chases Its ‘House of Cards’ Moment

/ Dec 13, 2013


Yahoo readies for aggressive video play ahead of 2014 Newfronts

Yahoo is looking to make a big video play that would position the company alongside the likes of Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu.

VideoInk has learned from multiple industry sources with knowledge of the company’s plans that Yahoo is aggressively chasing content deals with a focus on premium, long-form, and star-driven comedy programming. The key term here is long-form, as this isn’t the first time Yahoo has shopped for celebrity-driven comedy content.

According to the sources, Yahoo wants existing scripts or unaired pilots, especially those with high-caliber talent already attached — much like previous Yahoo originals “Burning Love” and “Tiny Commando,” which featured big names such as Ed Helms, Adam Scott, Paul Scheer, and Ben Stiller.

In short, Yahoo wants its “House of Cards” moment by locking down TV-quality shows and is willing to finance them with cable-sized budgets.

Leading this hunt, appropriately enough, is Brian Hunt, Yahoo’s head of development and original programming, though the company is still searching for a replacement for Erin McPherson, who recently departed for Maker Studios. Hunt has been tasked with reaching out to content owners to find projects that Yahoo can quickly buy. The goal is to greenlight a full comedy slate by February in order to have it ready for the 2014 Digital Content Newfronts.

Sources indicate that speed is such an issue that Yahoo may bypass the pilot process altogether and give full-season orders, much like what Netflix has been doing with its original content strategy.

Multiple sources say this directive comes from Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who we’re told wants to push heavily into half-hour comedy programming in the vein of smart, critically acclaimed shows like “Community” and “Veep.”

Funny enough, this content strategy is similar to the one endorsed by Ross Levinsohn, Yahoo’s former interim CEO who lost out on the permanent gig to Mayer. It’s also reminiscent of what long-time TV exec Lloyd Braun wanted to do when joined Yahoo in 2004 with the hopes of developing a hit show for the web.

This content-driven strategy also comes on the heels of multiple acquisitions in video-related tech companies like Evntlive and QuikIO, and even a flagship news deal with Katie Couric.

One interesting thing to take note: Unlike Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, Yahoo currently doesn’t have a subscription video offering, which means these shows will be monetized on ads alone. Can that be done on the web? Well, that’s another story for another day.

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