Yahoo To Preview New TV Shows

As a first step toward revamping its flagging TV section, Yahoo this week launched a new site devoted to the fall prime-time lineup.

The new area, Yahoo TV Fall 2006 Preview, includes detailed information about 34 of the major networks' prime-time television shows, including summaries, cast pictures, and in many cases, clips from the programs.

The section also will include streams of entire episodes of at least two shows before their network debut. CBS will make the pilot episode of "Jericho" available on the Yahoo site from Sept. 13 until its air date one week later. The pilot of NBC's "Heroes" also will be available from Sept. 18 until its broadcast premiere on Sept. 25. In addition, Fox will make the pilot of "Vanished" and season premiere of "Prison Break" available on Yahoo following their on-air debuts.

The site marks a stepped-up effort to appeal to TV-watchers--a group that no longer flocks to Yahoo the way it once did. "We're trying to create more immersive, engaging and dynamic destinations for TV users," said Karin Gilford, who on Monday began serving as general manager of Yahoo Entertainment.

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As recently as last year, when Yahoo streamed the debut of WB's "Supernatural," the portal was one of a very small number of companies to openly offer streams of TV shows online.

But competition for the TV audience grew far more intense in the last year, as all of the major networks began experimenting with online distribution of their shows. Nost notably, ABC offered ad-supported streams of four TV shows--"Lost," "Desperate Housewives," "Alias," and "Commander in Chief"--for several months earlier this year. In addition, CBS created a broadband channel "innertube," which will offer streams of "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," "CSI: Miami," "CSI: NY," "Jericho," "NCIS," "Numb3rs," and "Survivor."

Last month, Yahoo drew 5.6 million unique users--marking a 14 percent drop since July of 2005, according to comScore.

The major networks, meanwhile, went from no discernible traffic to millions of visitors a month in that time. CBS Web sites, for instance, drew 4.9 million visitors last month, while NBC.com drew 4.6 million visitors, and ABC drew 3.5 million; none of those destinations were measured by comScore in July of 2005.

Yahoo TV also faces increasing competition from Internet rival AOL, which earlier this year began streaming a host of old TV shows on in2TV. AOL last month drew 8.9 million users to its TV section, marking a 27 percent year-over-year, while TV.com's traffic soared 25 percent.

For now, the Yahoo Fall TV section is running house ads, but the company's sales force is talking with marketers about sponsorships, Gilford said. The section also contains links to individual Yahoo pages about the TV programs; those pages currently carry ads. Gilford added that those individual pages also will likely be tweaked. "We want to make better use of some of the great media assets we have, like photos and clips of the shows," she said.

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