All this would seem to be a business decision that the company should have made before -- oh, I don’t know, in 1999 maybe?
Yahoo executives also might want to consider that only three of 20 cable networks posted gains in total viewership in 2014 versus a year ago; and only two in the top 20 networks rose among younger 18-49 audiences, a seemingly better fitting target for a digital platform.
What networks did Yahoo have its eye on? Reports say the list included the independent Scripps Network Interactive of channels -- HGTV, Food Network, and Cooking Channel. CNN was also a possibility. Expected Scripps price tag? A nice $15 billion; somewhat less for just CNN -- $5 billion or so.
Some mid-level -- but growing -- cable networks would seem a better-priced deal. But think of those audiences. Yahoo ain’t no niche marketer in the digital space; it positions itself to be many things to many different people -- even as its general target has been women 25-54 (which would fit the Scripps Networks mold nicely.)
Some trains have left the station. For example, Yahoo should have figured out how to buy TVGN, now called POP, a CBS/Lionsgate cable network, the former TV Guide Network. A more general TV programming interest cable network -- with sizable distribution -- seems like the right fit, which also would be a perfect network looking to target women 25-54.
It wasn’t that long ago that big digital platforms considered traditional TV the enemy. Now they are somewhat uneasy business partners. The question for Yahoo is -- with whatever cable network it may have its eye on -- where will that growth come from?
We have a partial answer: Heightened interest among potential acquirers of cable channels comes from flashy, premium TV content. For Yahoo, buying a channel would also be a chance to synergize around a big marketing platform -- with scale. Traditional TV still has that.