By Peter Csathy
Last week VideoInk broke a story that floored me — “Yahoo Shutters Video Platform for Creators One Year After Anticipated Launch.” Yet, seems like I was the only one who was floored. I searched all over for others reporting the news, but couldn’t find it anywhere. I reached out to two key reporters at top media/digital media publications and, shockingly, one hadn’t even heard the news (nor seemed to think it was a big deal) while the other had heard, but was still sniffing around. Out of an abundance of caution, I asked VideoInk to verify the story again — which they did — pointing to the leaked Yahoo email that started the whole thing in the first place and verifying its authenticity.
So, people — hear me out here — and make no mistake, this IS big news in the OTT video world. Very big news. If true — if, in fact, Yahoo is closing its self-publishing platform for video creators — this development deeply demonstrates Yahoo’s continued indecision and overall flailing (failing?) in the OTT video content space. And, this certainly is not an opportune time for flailing — for an unfocused/scattered/disrupted (you choose the word) video strategy (or complete lack thereof?) when the video focus/strategy/execution of others (behemoths like Facebook and Snapchat and others like Vessel) are ever more sharp, precise, resourced, abundantly clear … and, with some, massively successful (by all accounts, Facebook is killing it).
Here’s the relevant timeline leading to this apparent “leak”:
Almost exactly one year ago, reports everywhere indicated that Yahoo was only months away from launching its own video creator platform — its own YouTube “Killer.” This was very big news at the time — everyone covered it. So, we all waited in anticipation. After all, Yahoo managed unique and uniquely compelling resources and ingredients (that I discussed long ago in a blog post from 2013) that gave the company the potential to drive real success as an alternative to YouTube. But months ticked on and, alas, it never came. Instead, silence.
That report, of course, followed Yahoo’s attempt — almost exactly 2 years ago — to buy a 75% controlling interest in Dailymotion, the European YouTube (certainly not of the scale of YouTube, but still a force in its own right). Alas, that never
came either — but this time, not for lack of trying. Rather, French regulators killed it. Movie over. Fin.
Meanwhile, throughout this entire timeline the OTT video world changed radically. What once was, in essence, a YouTube-only video world for creators is now a world of multiple competing video platforms — and a rapidly growing “multiple” it is, in which YouTube is no longer the only game in town for creators.
And, what was happening at Yahoo? Senior video executives came and went and apparently took their individual video strategies with them out that revolving door. Those that remained found themselves in an environment apparently emitting, shall we say, not the highest level of morale. I have spoken with several of these video execs who have come and gone (I will keep their names confidential) and have heard one theme that is focused — i.e., Yahoo!s video “strategy” has been overtaken by confusing multiple layers of decision-making, internal conflict, and what some even called “chaos.” Not trying to be a muckraker here — it gives me no joy reporting this (because I believe Yahoo could succeed in some very meaningful) — but am just reporting the current state of affairs as I have come to understand them from multiple sources. And, Yahoo is running out of time amidst the current great OTT video land grab of 2015.
So, what do we have now at Yahoo? We have a media regime headed by Kathy Savitt, an accomplished marketing executive,
but whose official title itself is split — “CMO and head of media” — which alone connotes a certain lack of corporate focus and commitment. We have had some major exclusive and very expensive video content announcements, including Yahoo’s exclusive rights to cult television favorite “Community.” But Yahoo does not actively promote that programming (it is mentioned nowhere on Yahoo!’s home page). We have “Yahoo TV” and “Yahoo Screen,” Yahoo’s two primary video initiatives. But have you even heard of them? I hadn’t…at least not really. Those two also are essentially invisible on Yahoo’s home page, which is a major head-scratcher in this “new golden age of video.” Once I did find them, I can’t really tell how “Yahoo TV” and “Yahoo Screen” are the same…different…complementary?
One thing we apparently do know now, however, is this. Yahoo is giving up on the mega YouTube-esque “killer” opportunity. Throwing up the white flag …
… at least, and unless, Yahoo has a major Dailymotion-like acquisition trick up its sleep that will soon come to light and finally catapult it into the OTT video big leagues (where it absolutely could belong if it had the will and focus).
But, sadly, I don’t see that coming.
Hope I’m wrong — and will be the first to fall on my sword if Yahoo! works some mystical sleight of hand.
Check out more of Peter Csathy’s thoughts on the digital media space at the Digital Media Update.