Yahoo announces first two original TV series
Yahoo, one of the latest tech companies trying to cash in on original TV programming, is banking on comedy with two series from the creator of "Freaks and Geeks" and a veteran of "The Office."
Yahoo has announced the first two shows in its line of original TV series that will come to Yahoo Screen, Roku, and Apple TV next year. Both will be 30-minute long comedies spanning eight episodes each.
The first is "Other Space" and will be headed up by Paul Feig, creator of "Freaks and Geeks" and an Emmy-nominated director for "The Office."
It will feature a band of galactic travelers from Earth in the 22nd century, a time when wider space travel has yet to beget any discovery of alien life. However, the crew stumbles into an exciting and exotic alternate universe, and presumably some hijinks ensue. Feig also directed the excellent 2011 film "Bridesmaids," if the convincing "Freaks and Geeks" credit isn't enough.
The second show is "Sin City Saints," which is centered around a Silicon Valley tech tycoon's ambitious dream of building out a pro basketball franchise in Las Vegas. Bryan Gordon, a fellow Emmy-nominated director for "The Office" as well as "Curb Your Enthusiasm," is onboard alongside executive producer Mike Tollin, whose credits include "One Tree Hill" and "Smallville."
Though the talent is impressive, Yahoo is entering a market without an ample amount of footing to stand its ground against on-demand TV incumbents Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, or for that matter Microsoft with its newly created Xbox Originals studio. Yahoo has neither a streaming device -- like the Amazon Fire TV or the Xbox 360 -- to push its own programming nor a blockbuster application that's become a household name, like Netflix. Yahoo Screen saw 500 million streams over the last seven months, Yahoo said, but it has a long road ahead to bring its offerings to the level of competing video services.
In addition to the TV offerings, Yahoo announced a partnership with live events promoter LiveNation, under which Yahoo will stream one concert per day for the next several years, plus extra behind-the-scenes footage like exclusive interviews.
The concerts will be streamed on a new Yahoo music channel that will launch in July, with sponsorships from Kellogg and other companies. The talent roster for the concerts will be all across the spectrum -- from acts playing stadiums, to newer bands playing smaller venues.
The live broadcast will come courtesy of LiveNation's in-house production studio, according to The Wall Street Journal. But it's also how some of Yahoo's startup acquisitions from the past year might play into the project. In December, the company bought Evntlive, a "virtual venue" startup that makes the live music viewing experience more interactive.
Yahoo Screen is the company's video platform, formerly called Yahoo Video, that was renamed in October 2011. Starting last year, Yahoo began rolling out a lineup of comedy programming from around the Web handpicked by editors in the style of its Yahoo News homepage curation, as well as courting media companies like Viacom and NBCUniversal.
Those partnerships brought Comedy Central programming like "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" to the platform alongside "Saturday Night Live." Among its more than 1,000 hours of comedy programming, according to Yahoo, Screen contains programming from the MLB, UFC, and ABC News. Partnerships with media companies like Conde Nast have brought video content from Wired and GQ into the mix too.
While Yahoo hopes viewers will jump into its Web video portal and its Yahoo Screen iOS app, which was launched last October, it's bringing the shows to Roku and Apple TV to widen the audience. Whether or not that platform expansion will give Yahoo the edge to continue pushing its way into the crowded digital programming battlefield will rest on the popularity of "Other Space" and "Sin City Saints," among Yahoo's other slated programs in the pipeline.
CNET's Richard Nieva contributed to this post.
Update. 4:29 p.m. PT: Added additional details regarding Yahoo Screen and the company's content strategy.
Update, 5:49 p.m. PT: Added details about Yahoo's partnership with LiveNation to stream live concerts.