Today’s news that Yahoo quietly shuttered its premium video portal Yahoo Stream last week (first reported by Variety) comes as no big surprise, given the $42 million write-down it’s taking for its original shows “Other Space,” “Sin City Saints” and season six of the axed NBC show “Community” and reports that it’s pulled the plug on several high-profile series on its development slate (“The Pursuit,” “The Ultimate D.J.”).
But rather than rush forward with dire predictions about what new horrors might lie in store for the once-mighty internet giant — which, according to reports, is either selling or spinning off its core business — VideoInk thought it would better pause for a moment to consider the factors that led to Yahoo Screen’s demise, because A) schadenfreude is a time-honored show business tradition, and B) we might just learn something.
1) Lack of promotion. If you spend big money on shows, let people know about it. Yahoo went all out when it announced its programming slate to the industry and advertisers with a splashy NewFronts presentation last April, but it dropped the ball when it came to letting people — press, industry and everyday viewers — know that the series were available to watch or even that such a thing as Yahoo Screen existed. In contrast, Netflix sends out a press release and a social media blast every time it drops a new trailer or adds a cast member to one of its shows.
2) A buggy video player. The internet is rife with tales of Yahoo Screen’s stuttering video and lags, freezes and crashes that made watching a challenge, if not downright unbearable. The result: viewers that did find Yahoo Screen were not encouraged to stick around and watch more.
3) Old school attitude. Signing “CBS Evening News” anchor and “Today” (NBC) co-host Katie Couric as “global news anchor” may have been a coup that impressed Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer’s old media peers, but it wasn’t something that appealed to the millennials who constitute the core demographic in the digital space. Online video has its own rules and rhythms, as well as its own homegrown stars, both of which are beginning to reshape the look of linear TV. Hiring Couric sent the wrong brand message at the wrong time, making it look like a fuddy duddy compared to the networks, which have been effectively harnessing social video with programs such as “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,” ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and CBS’ “The Late Late Show with James Corden.”
The shuttering of Yahoo Screen is another sad entry in a litany of recent woes for the Sunnyvale, Ca.-based tech company. One of the giants of the dial-up internet age, Yahoo has seen its fortunes decline drastically in recent months.
The one bright spot in Yahoo’s portfolio reveals just how far it’s fallen: its 15% stake in Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba is worth approximately $30 billion, but Yahoo as a whole is valued at just $31.5 billion. It’s depressing figure when one considers that, at its peak in January 2000, Yahoo had a market cap of $140 billion, but it’s an improvement over 2014, when Forbes calculated that Yahoo’s U.S. business was worth less than nothing.
The good news for viewers is that Yahoo Screen’s programming won’t be disappearing from the web. Instead, it will now be available via Yahoo’s various “digital magazines.” For instance, “Community,” “Other Space” and “Sin City Saints” are on the Yahoo TV page, while Couric’s reports are viewable on Yahoo News.