Yahoo Beefs Up Web Entertainment

Enhanced e-mail, a spruced up Flickr photo-sharing site and a new weather app are all part of Yahoo’s turnaround efforts. Next up: an entertainment push that includes a new Web chat show from John Stamos (ER), a comedy series with Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Cheryl Hines and Saturday Night Live clip reruns.

A year into the tenure of CEO Marissa Mayer, Yahoo is betting that online entertainment can start to boost traffic dramatically.

The online giant is planning the debut of five new series in September, “binge” style, so viewers can watch an entire season in one sitting.

Yahoo’s efforts are different from Netflix’s strategy of paying tens of millions of dollars to producers to come up with a few high-profile cable-like series. Yahoo is more about bulk. It already has 50 series it churns out weekly, including reality parody series Burning Love and recipe show Chow Ciao. The new slate — which will also include 40 years of SNL clips, extra online stories and clips from ABC’s Nightline, World Newsand Good Morning America and wrestling “pre-shows” from the WWE — will bring it to 55 originals.

Fresh New Shows

The new fare includes Ghost Ghirls, a female take on Ghostbusters, produced by actor Jack Black; Losing Your Virginity, a celeb chat show where Stamos asks stars about their first time; and We Need Help, about a newly hired male assistant to Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm) and Rachael Harris (The Hangover).

Yahoo had first tried an entertainment push about a decade ago, when former Warner Bros. CEO Terry Semel ran the company. It was shelved when Yahoo decided that consumers weren’t coming to Yahoo to be entertained, just to get their e-mail, sports scores and news updates.

But now, with consumers increasingly turning to smartphones and tablets for short bites of entertainment, Yahoo has decided that the time is right for Web originals.

“We’re finally at that tipping point where hardware’s there, software’s there, streaming’s there, so consumers are there,” says Yahoo vice president and head of video programming Erin McPherson.

Reader alert — don’t look for Yahoo’s entertainment shows on its home page. Instead, Yahoo houses most of it on a separate entertainment site,

The most successful original show to date is Burning Love, which attracted 11 million viewers during its initial season in 2012.

Most of the current shows — topical viral video countdowns, recaps of TV shows and the like — are produced in Yahoo’s studios here. The syndicated OMG! The Insider (re-branded Yahoo OMG! in January to factor in Yahoo’s involvement) airs on TV, while Yahoo runs a Web-only five-minute version three times a day, with celebrity news updates. (continued…)


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