Yahoo is reportedly going to make its Katie Couric-hosted talk show announcement on Monday, according to a new report from AllThingsD’s Kara Swisher, supported by an earlier article from the NYT. Swisher is known for having an inside track on Yahoo information, and previously reported that a partnership between the two was in the works. This would mark the second high-profile news media talent get for Yahoo, after it picked up longtime NYT tech columnist David Pogue in October.
Until now, Yahoo under CEO Marissa Mayer has seemed primarily focused on product, with a sweeping revamp of the Internet pioneer’s mobile apps and web-based properties, but content and a push for video content in particular seems to be the new priority for Mayer, alongside ongoing product building efforts. As for Couric, she’s currently hosting Katie on ABC, after establishing her success as an anchor personality on NBC’s Today Show. Couric’s show is set for another season, but recent reports suggest she’s ready to move on to something else once the ABC contract is up come summer, if ratings don’t improve.
There’s a lot of competition to be the broadcast giant of online web video right now, with efforts ongoing at Yahoo competitor AOL (disclaimer: AOL owns TechCrunch) to build on its AOL On live video platform. Recently, AOL started experimenting with original programming via its AOL On Originals series, which to some extent puts it in competition with Netflix and Amazon, too.
AOL Originals include a million dollar content deal with Heidi Klum that featured her dressing up as an old lady once and pretty much nothing else noteworthy, and Nicole Ritchie reminding us why she should never have been famous to begin with. Great gets AOL. Just hanging out at the pseudo celebrity unemployment center pays off, I guess.
The web series is not a new thing, but major content portals getting into producing them in-house is a relatively recent strategy. It’s attractive because video presents tremendous opportunity for advertising that static web pages and digital display ads just can’t match, in terms of reach and the ability to capture audience focus. If you’re a content player on the web currently, you have to be looking at video, and it’s especially attractive because it’s a problem no one has really come up with a great solution for just yet.
AOL Live, for instance, has run into a snag as its chief as the company recently departed, and the debut of its first series was put on hold. HuffPost Live, the other big AOL-owned live video property, recently had a broadcast cross-publishing deal put on hold, and the closure of its LA studio earlier this year resulted in layoffs as operations were redirected to New York.
People have been chasing the online video carrot for years now, but Yahoo looks to be tying its hopes to attracting big name broadcast talent for original programming. It’s an interesting bid that could become even more interesting paired with Yahoo’s renewed focus on mobile, but I’m still skeptical it will do much to really move the needle on original online programming. Still, it’s a start and Yahoo doesn’t seem to be slowing down the pace on product and content news.