Beyond Netflix: Is Yahoo the Next HBO?

Although lately most of the mobile TV news has been via Amazon launching new pilots for upcoming shows and Netflix streaming hit shows such as "House of Cards," there is one up-and-coming player that is not on many people's radar right now: Yahoo. Did you know Yahoo has a fall lineup? And that the network, I mean website, is lining up additional original video content that will debut this later this year? Yahoo is certainly making a huge step, but it's time to figure out what its master plan is going to be. 

Yahoo is no stranger to original programming, it has several entertainment and lifestyle hubs where it has produced original web-TV programming. But with major acquisitions, such as this week buying blogging platform tumblr for more than $1 billion dollars, Yahoo is clearly setting its sights on new media in many forms. After sitting on the sidelines seeing companies such as Apple, Amazon, Google and Netflix make headway with mobile and Web video content, Yahoo is aiming to ramp up the producing. Here are just some of the programs Yahoo is producing for 2013, most of which will debut later this year:

"Tiny Commando" -- Ed Helms created and stars, along with Zachary Levi, Gillian Jacobs, and some of the biggest names in comedy, in the Principato-Young Entertainment production, "Tiny Commando," an action-packed series following a four-inch-tall private investigator who uses his awesome fleet of vehicles to fight crime.

"We Need Help" -- In Vuguru's "We Need Help," creators, producers and stars Cheryl Hines and Rachael Harris exploit their shared personal assistant in the series produced by Principato-Young Entertainment and Steve Carr, and directed by Hines.

"Fashion Recipe" -- Celebrity stylist Brett Alan Nelson shows you how to get the most from one particular article of clothing.

"Cinema & Spice" -- Julianna Strickland and Natasha Feldman explore food and film while teaching viewers new cooking skills and decorating ideas.

"Grill Girls" (working title) -- A new grilling show featuring Chef Megan Mitchell sharing her grilling secrets and tips for everything from steaks to peaches and pizza.

Yahoo is obviously taking a page from Netflix and will be making episodes available all at once, so their audience can binge-watch to their heart’s content. Yahoo also recently announced that it has secured the rights to the entire back catalog of Saturday Night Live, and will make full episodes from all the seasons available for streaming. Most viewers watched SNL on Hulu Plus, but the show now has a new home. Yahoo also has created an alliance with WWE to deliver programming such as a Monday Night Raw pre-show, live pre-shows for pay-per-view events, a weekly original WWE series and access to WWE premium content. ABC News and Yahoo will also be rolling out three shows — World News Beyond the Headlines, Nightline: Online, and GMA Live — and Yahoo will be the only place you’ll be able to see these many hours of new ABC News content. 

What is telling about all this is that unlike past alliances in previous years, which were mainly built around brand portals, this content is video-based and long form. Quick clips are one thing to embed to a website, but entire full-length series are quite another. The main question is where are people going to engage in all this original programming? If Yahoo can drive viewers to the website and make watching videos on desktop and mobile via technology like HTML5 easy, then that can certainly ramp up its numbers. But other sites such as YouTube are a focus but not an island, as the YouTube app is available on Apple TV, Xbox 360, Roku 3, PS3, Google TV and many more devices. Yahoo will need to follow suit to grab the most numbers. SNL is a prime example, it's great to watch it on a service such as Netflix or Hulu Plus, but more of a drag to only have it available on the Mac or PC desktop. 

Chances are Yahoo may not produce a set-top streaming box, although anything could happen, so it will have to get its “channel” out to the masses via an app on popular platforms. This will be a major initiative for any company and one that will be especially challenging for Yahoo, which is not particularly known for being a video content producer beyond its own website.

The future does look bright for Yahoo though. With new management in place, the company that was so popular in the 90s and has since seemed more retro and old school, could be setting the stage for one of the biggest brand comebacks the Web has yet to see. We’ll be watching, and tuning in.