At Yahoo, signs point to bigger media move

The company's appointment of former TV executive Lloyd Braun highlights its entertainment ambitions.

Lloyd Braun may represent the future of Yahoo.

The former ABC executive, who was ousted in a management shakeup at the network in April, has been appointed to oversee Yahoo's media and entertainment properties. His surprise appointment--which includes oversight of the Web portal's finance, news, sports, entertainment, gaming, television and movie businesses--could be a sign that the company is entering an important new phase of its strategic development as a leading site for Internet-only media.

"I don't think (Yahoo) will be in the business of creating their own content," said Martin Pyykkonen, an equity analyst at Janco Partners. "But having somebody or a team acquire license rights will fill up the portal and give people more reason to visit Yahoo."


What's new:
Yahoo's appointment of former TV executive Lloyd Braun highlights the company's entertainment ambitions.

Bottom line:
If Yahoo succeeds in entertainment, it would mark a sea change not just for the company but for the entire Internet as a mainstream medium.

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The move is part of a natural evolution of the leading portals, including America Online and Microsoft's MSN, as they search for new ways to expand their businesses beyond aggregation of content that has become commoditized on the Web. Although they survived the dot-com meltdown, the portals have been forced to compete for limited advertising dollars while conceding much of the search-engine business to market leader Google.

Providing original content has long been a goal of Yahoo CEO Terry Semel, a 24-year veteran of Warner Bros., whose appointment in 2001 raised speculation that the Internet company would eventually gravitate toward Hollywood. Semel's strategy is to make Yahoo an Internet version of a cable company, distributing content without necessarily creating it.

Yahoo's content strategy also drew attention last week when the company was named as a possible suitor for financial news site MarketWatch alongside such traditional media conglomerates as Dow Jones, The New York Times Co. and Viacom's CBS. The portal declined to comment on the reports regarding MarketWatch, which distributes news on Yahoo Finance.

If Yahoo succeeds in entertainment, it would mark a sea change not just for the company but for the entire Internet as a mainstream medium. Countless online companies have pursued similar goals ever since the Web's popular explosion in the mid-1990s, often with disastrous results.

Online entertainment ventures such as Warner Bros.' Entertaindom, then headed by current Yahoo executive Jim Moloshok, offered exclusive TV-style shows and cartoons but was unceremoniously shuttered when parent company Time Warner was acquired by AOL in 2001.

Other entertainment dot-coms soon followed. Among the more notable casualties were CMGI-owned iCast, the venture funded by Hollywood heavyweights Steven Spielberg and Ron Howard, the Digital Entertainment Network, Pseudo Programs and animation site

Yahoo made some dubious media forays of its own, one as recently as early 2003 when it launched a subscription-only streaming video service called Yahoo Platinum. The service, spearheaded by Moloshok, featured TV and cable programming to compete with RealNetworks' SuperPass and other video services on rivals AOL and MSN. Yahoo quietly scrapped it just a few months later.

But much has changed in the months since, mainly because of the

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