The Web giant also debuted new shows from global anchor Katie Couric, a new partnership with Live Nation for new live concert streaming and an updated version of Yahoo Travel in the high-gloss style of its other new digital magazines.
But the main focus at the event held in a packed tent at Lincoln Center was on Yahoo's first foray into TV-style programming. Previously, the search giant had rolled out only short-form video series. The aim is to better compete with streaming services like Netflix and original series on cable networks, like HBO and Showtime.
To that end, Yahoo has tapped Paul Feig, the writer-producer who created the highly acclaimed but short-lived “Freaks & Geeks” and director of hit film “Bridesmaids,” to executive produce “Other Space,” which follows a group of misfit space travelers in the 22nd century who stumble upon an alternate universe.
Mike Tollin, executive producer of the WB hit series “Smallville” and “One Tree Hill,” is partnering with TV director Bryan Gordon (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”) on “Sin City Saints,” which centers on the travails of a fictional Las Vegas-based pro basketball expansion team.
Yahoo has initially ordered eight episodes of both shows, which will debut next year. Yahoo CMO Kathy Savitt said during the presentation, which featured Tollin and Feig (in a filmed clip), that additional shows will be announced in the coming weeks.
The series will both premiere on Yahoo Screen and be accessible on the Web or a companion app for viewing across devices as well as on TV through set-top boxes like Apple TV and Roku. To accommodate the growing ranks of binge viewers, all episodes will be made available at once, but specific launch dates are not yet set.
Katie Couric, who joined Yahoo last year to lead its news efforts, was on hand to preview a pair of new shows launching this summer. “World 3.0” will focus on how technology innovators, scientists and social entrepreneurs are changing daily life. “Now I Get It" will help to explain complex news topics, like virtual currency Bitcoin through short videos.
In teaming with Live Nation, Yahoo plans to produce what it calls the largest collection of concert live streams on the Web -- showing one live concert a day, 365 days a year, starting this summer. Viewers will also see exclusive interviews, backstage sneak peeks, and special performances. A sizzle reel touted artists including Miley Cyrus, Kid Rock and One Direction.
The New Live Nation Channel on Yahoo Screen is part of a broader initiative the company is launching called Yahoo Live, aimed at bringing live programming and “unscripted moments” across music, sports, and entertainment.
Along with the new video offerings, Yahoo took the wraps off a revamped Yahoo Travel site, sporting a similar card-style layout to the recently launched Yahoo Tech and Yahoo Food sites. The latest addition to its lineup of digital magazines likewise offers native advertising and sponsored articles with the image-heavy content. On board as launch sponsors are Walt Disney Parks and Resorts.
Yahoo also announced new ad formats to help monetize the new content and a partnership with comScore to simplify ad-buying. For the digital magazines, it introduced Yahoo Splash Ads, oversized rich media units that spread across the center of the page. And for the Yahoo login page, it debuted a full-page, 15-second video ad.
Yahoo’s alliance with comScore, meanwhile, will provide advertisers with access to the Web measurement firm’s vCE metric through Yahoo’s ad-serving and reporting tools for tracking campaigns across display, video and mobile.
Yahoo in the first quarter saw a slight increase in revenue for the first time in over a year, in part because of improvement in its display business, which grew 2% after a 6% decline in the fourth quarter of 2013. That gain suggested that CEO Marissa Mayer’s investments in overhauling site content and introducing new ad products may be beginning to show results.
On Monday, both Mayer and Savitt suggested Yahoo was well positioned to capitalize on the growth in online and on-demand video viewing and trends like binge-watching of TV series. “Consumers are now becoming their own programmers,” said Savitt. That creates complexity, but also new opportunity for Yahoo, she added.
Given Yahoo’s spotty history trying to fuse Hollywood and Silicon Valley talent to create compelling content, however, its success with long-form original programming is hardly assured. It may have to fund a number of flops before it delivers a series that resonates with viewers. But flush with cash from its stake in Alibaba, it has some money to gamble on finding a hit or two.