So Yahoo is trying to get into the $500 billion TV battle, again, with what is now typical Yahoo awkwardness. (Terry Semel is either happy or pissed.) Yahoo just relauched their video portal under the moniker Yahoo Screen. It’s a hodge podge of Yahoo original content , webby partnerships with traditional media like ABC News, and stuff from Hulu. And just like Google’s search persona permeated version one of Google TV, Yahoo’s corporate personality shines through in Screen: ok-to-good assets underneath but no clear direction leading to a bungled opportunity.
No one knows how TV 2.0 is going to turn out, and apparently neither does Yahoo. Yahoo has always flirted with video on the web. One of the first web-based “channels” I ever watched was the Yahoo Finance video channel. It was a low-budget, people-curated, aggregation of things going on in finance. It felt like some kid reading search results on camera. And as evidenced by Yahoo’s Prime Time in No Time, things haven’t changed much. Production values have gone up a little and the search result readers are older but Yahoo’s original content is still some webified version of people curated aggregation. With semi-lame original content on one end and Hulu traditional media on the other, it looks like Yahoo is throwing together everything and anything that looks like tv under one portal. As such it’s hard to understand what Yahoo’s strategy is for creating an audience other than let’s try every.
Of course the definition of television is getting weird so Screen might just be a sign of the times. Just 3 years ago there was broadcast quality television and YouTube with not much in the middle. But with content guys trying to hold onto their ad and sub dollars combined with an ever increasing number of well-funded challengers, everyone is seems to be in the content creation game these days. Google, Netflix, and others are apparently funneling hundreds of millions into original content. So the definition of what is TV is going to get really fuzzy near term.
Yahoo’s kitchen sink approach is probably okay given the current state of things. More helpful is Yahoo’s enviable demographic numbers. Despite the growing impression that they don’t know what they’re doing, Yahoo still seems to have a ton of traffic in key media areas: news, finance, celebrities, sports, women, etc.
So combine their quirky original content, partnerships with traditional media, and a strong demographic base and you might have something. Ah, but this is Yahoo. It feels like they should be able to do something but the lack of direction means more aggressive and focused players will likely eat their lunch. Sound familiar.