• Yahoo is Now Pursuing Long-Form Originals; Video Strategy Remains Murky

    The WSJ reported last night that Yahoo is joining the long-form original programming fray, looking to order four TV-style programs with budgets in the $700K-several million dollar range. Such a move could up the company's profile, yet it seems like further evidence of a very murky online video strategy.

    Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has been saying that video is a priority for the company since she took the reins nearly 2 years ago. In that time Yahoo has been active, landing Saturday Night Live's catalog and certain shows from Comedy Central, recruiting Katie Couric as its "Global Anchor," and launching an excellent mobile video app Yahoo Screen.

    In addition, Yahoo tried to acquire Dailymotion, but was blocked by France. More recently, Yahoo reportedly is looking to buy video syndicator NDN and possibly poach YouTube stars to build its own network.

    On top of all this comes the report about Yahoo creating its own TV shows. But if you're like me, you're probably wondering what Yahoo's video strategy is in all of this: Short-form or long-form? Mainstream media or online-only talent? Technology-driven or media-driven? Living room vs. mobile? Or, all of the above?

    Despite its well-documented troubles, Yahoo still has massive audiences which can be leveraged for video success. I'm just speculating, but part of the issue would seem to be that there's no single person (except maybe Mayer herself) actually in charge of video at Yahoo these days (the last head, Erin McPherson, left last November). Yahoo has reportedly been out recruiting a new video head, looking mainly in the traditional TV world.

    Absent a real plan as to how expensive TV series fit within a video strategy (much less a broader company strategy), Yahoo's taking on a big risk. Original TV programming is an expensive proposition and chancy even in the hands of the most experienced TV executives. As one example of how to mitigate risk, Microsoft hired TV vet Nancy Tellem to handle its programming efforts.

    Meanwhile, the landscape for quality TV is more crowded than ever, with Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Crackle and others stepping up their programming investments, alongside cable networks like AMC, HBO, FX and the broadcast networks. In short, this will be a tough game for Yahoo to succeed at. Rather than swinging for the fences, Yahoo would be well served to first design a well-thought out video strategy, finding places where it has some competitive advantage.