Under Levinsohn, Yahoo Turns To Video

Under the direction of interim CEO Ross Levinsohn, Yahoo is poised to reposition itself once again in an effort to win back the ad dollars that Facebook, Google and others have taken from the once mighty Internet giant.

Whereas former CEOs Carol Bartz and Scott Thompson were seen as technologists, “Levinsohn is a media guy,” a Yahoo insider tells Reuters. “And our business model is selling display advertising. His elevation makes clear we are a media company now."

Perhaps more importantly, Levinsohn is a digital media guy, having previously worked at Alta Vista, CBS SportsLine and Fox Interactive Media, where he was president. He was also one of the main architects behind News Corp.’s 2005 purchase of MySpace and IGN.

Industry analysts and executives tell Reuters that Levinsohn has little choice but to reposition Yahoo around media and advertising. They say he is focused on Yahoo’s video programming in particular, and in striking more syndication deals.

"In Yahoo's case, some of the slots you might think to take are already taken -- being a leader in the social space is taken, and being No. 1 in search is occupied,” says Jonathan Miller, News Corp.’s chief digital officer. "One of the things that is open and fits is digital media. I think it's the one (slot) that Yahoo has to occupy, and Ross has the background, the orientation and the skills to take the lead in that category."

According to eMarketer, Yahoo’s share of display advertising is set to decline 9.1 percent this year from 10.8 percent in 2011, indicating that if anything is going to catalyze Yahoo’s revenues, it will have to be video.

This is why Levinsohn “has been frantically inking new deals” with the likes of ABC News, Tom Hanks and Ben Stiller. These original video content deals were announced at Yahoo’s NewFront presentation in New York a few weeks ago. In fact, Yahoo already commands 21 of the 25 most-watched Web series.

"Ross' vision is to move up as high as they can go on free and ad-supported, because scale matters," says an unnamed shareholder. "I think he's right about that."

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