Yahoo Launches New Screen App And Viacom Partnership For Lean-Back Tablet And Smartphone Video

Yahoo launched a new mobile application this morning called “Yahoo Screen,” designed for Apple iOS devices, including iPhone, iPad and iPod touch. The app is meant to serve as a mobile home for Yahoo’s own media content and that from its content partners, and offers up a simple, swipeable interface for browsing through the various programs.

Developed by Yahoo’s mobile team in NYC, the app allows users to browse through trending clips, search for specific shows, and includes gesture-based navigational controls – for example, swiping left and right skips between the episodes, while swiping up and down flips through channels.  The idea, the company explains, is to re-create the feeling of channel surfing on the TV on mobile. The navigation controls are on the left side of the screen, where you can scroll up and down through the available content channels, tap a search button, or access a side bar where you can navigate in between other Yahoo apps like Mail, Flickr, Fantasy Sports, and more.

At launch, the app prominently features content from Saturday Night Live, The Onion, GQ, ABC News, Vogue, and several others. Top Comedy Central shows, including The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report, are offered as well, through a new partnership with Viacom, also announced today. The company specifically touted comedy content such as Jack Black’s Ghost Ghirls and  John Stamos in Losing It With John Stamos. The company notes that it has over 1,000 hours of comedy to watch.

The app is well-designed, but I’m not sure about its choice to use only channel logos and not names in the left-hand navigation menu. For some of the properties, like SNL, the logo is easily identifiable (it’s actually the letters S-N-L). But other logos may not be familiar to all users – like the three stars referencing a “celeb” channel, for instance. This makes finding content you’d like to watch a bit more challenging that it perhaps should be.

The company, you may remember, announced earlier this year that it had acquired the exclusive rights to classic SNL clips from 1975 through 2012, which would go live this month. This application represents one of Yahoo’s first major attempts to take advantage of those properties on mobile. And its new Viacom deal indicates the company has been working to secure more comedic content partnerships – which could be the first efforts at becoming “known” for a particular type of video content. Yahoo has needed a stronger web and mobile video presence in order to offer advertisers a wider selection of video ads, since these ads have been partially displacing web ads, like banner ads, in recent years.

Yahoo has been on an acquisition spree (or acqui-hire spree!) since Marissa Mayer took over as Yahoo CEO – an effort to infuse the company with fresh developer talent. With the increasing numbers of mobile developers now working at Yahoo, we should see more updates and new releases like this in the months ahead, and potentially, at a much faster pace than in years past.  (Maybe an Android version of Yahoo Screen soon?)

You can download the new Yahoo Screen app here in iTunes.