So-called "one-offs" -- YouTube videos of political hijinks and Diet Coke explosions -- have drawn massive audiences, whereas Web series in which people return each week have, for the most part, failed to break through.
"The only way we're going to get there is by starting to take some chances," said Yahoo's vice president of media Jimmy Pitaro.
Pitaro said Yahoo could learn from TV networks, which are willing to roll the dice each year with expensive pilots. He wants to "focus more on what our editors and producers think is creative and will resonate with an audience."
Yahoo announced one gambit Wednesday with the "Ready, Set, Dance!" series, part of a content-sharing deal with Electus, an outfit run by Ben Silverman, who spearheaded NBC's "The Office" and "The Biggest Loser."
The new reality-competition series, where contestants break out into dance spontaneously when a camera arrives, will have 12 weekly episodes. It is sponsored by State Farm, which will be integrated into the content.
Pitaro, who declined to speak about his rumored departure from Yahoo, said the company will stick with video shorts and not move into lengthier productions. It produces shows such as daily roundups of prime-time TV, finance and sports.
Pitaro said the shows are financially successful with sufficient advertising, but have not found the type of mass loyal audience common to hit TV shows. "The dollars are there," he said. "That's not the problem -- the problem is scaling it."
Appearing with Pitaro on an Advertising Week panel, Silverman said his experience with Web sites and originals is that "most of the big platforms you see aren't ready to invest in content -- they want to repurpose content."