The fact that Yahoo failed at its recent attempts at original video comes as no surprise. The fact that company CFO Ken Goldman said the large misfire didn’t mean Yahoo was out of the original content game is somewhat shocking. The remark either is disingenuous at its root or an attempt at saving face.
The $42 million write-down for its video division losses, announced at its Q3 earnings call, is the latest in Yahoo’s sad history in all things video and/or television. The Wrap reported Goldman saying, “What we concluded is [that] certain of our original video content, we couldn’t see a way to make money over time. I’m thinking of ‘Community,’ I’m thinking of ‘Sin City Saints’ and so forth. So there, where we had spent money and had some assets on our balance sheet, we elected to write those off.”
Yahoo’s troubled past in media includes the purchase and shut down of video platform provider, Maven Networks; an inability to get its connected TV program off the ground; a weak attempt as a music and radio network after its 1999 purchase of Broadcast.com from Mark Cuban; and half-hearted attempts at trying to play in YouTube’s sandbox as a consumer generated media site.
While it’s easy to point fingers of blame in all directions, it is a challenge to point a figure at whoever leads Yahoo’s video efforts — mostly because that role lacks any support from the powers that be. Anna Robertson Yahoo’s VP, head of video, has solid credentials and experience, but if her tenure matches those who preceded her (namely Ross Levinsohn and Mickie Rosen), she lacks the guidance and trust from the C-level (or what’s left of them) at the one-time portal giant. A lack of continuity and internal agreement is to blame for such decisions as the one to resurrect a TV comedy that was dropped by a major network (NBC’s “Community”). Netflix and Hulu should think long and hard before picking up such shows as “Longmire,” “The Mindy Project,” “Arrested Development” and so on. Yahoo’s due diligence in these matters was at best poorly drawn.
The future for Yahoo and video is uncertain given its string of miscues. Of far more immediate concern is its upcoming live streaming of the NFL game between the Bills and Jags this weekend from London. According to news reports, the rights to what has turned out to be a ho-hum contest cost Yahoo $10 million. With four wins between them and 6:30 a.m. start time for those on the West Coast, there is a lot of margin for another colossal mistake. Perhaps it’s time for Yahoo to punt on all things video and stick to what it does best. But, then again, Marissa Mayer and her crew have yet to figure that out.