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Yahoo notches ad deal with USA Network

The Web portal announces an agreement with Vivendi Universal's USA Network to promote the cable channel's TV shows throughout some of Yahoo's most highly trafficked areas.

Yahoo on Monday announced an advertising deal with Vivendi Universal's USA Network to promote the cable channel's TV shows throughout the portal's Web site.

Under the deal, USA Network will launch advertisements for its upcoming slate of original shows, including "Rudy: The Rudy Giuliani Story," the new series "Nashville Star," the miniseries "Helen of Troy," a miniseries based on the film "Traffic," "The AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Robert De Niro," and the new season of "Monk."

Ads for these shows will appear throughout some of Yahoo's most highly trafficked areas, including its home page, Yahoo Mail and My Yahoo. Promotions will also run on media and information properties including Yahoo TV, Yahoo Movies, Yahoo Sports and Yahoo News.

The companies did not disclose the length of the deal, nor did they release financial terms.

The deal is significant for Yahoo because USA Network joins other offline media companies such as News Corp.'s Fox Network and Viacom's UPN in promoting their shows throughout the Web portal. For the past two years, the company has been suffering from the collapse in online advertising spending and has been trying to refurbish its image among top advertisers.

Yahoo CEO Terry Semel, a former Warner Bros. studio head, has made a priority of tapping into Hollywood's online marketing dollars. Semel last April hired Jim Moloshok, a former Warner Bros. executive and confidante, to head Yahoo's entertainment efforts, and the division has since been trying to establish itself in Hollywood.

However, entertainment companies, and advertisers as a whole, remain hesitant to commit marketing dollars to the Internet. Although Hollywood studios are warming up to the Web as a way to reach potential viewers, companies are not completely sold on the idea that online advertising boosts ticket sales and Nielsen ratings. Television, print, radio and outdoor advertising remain the standard fare among entertainment marketers.

Still, Yahoo has been greasing the wheels in preparation for online advertising's expected rebound. The company's ad sales team has been wining and dining clients and holding retreats to evangelize its message to those still skeptical about the Web.

In large part, the company has turned around a reputation for arrogance created during the dot-com boom years when Yahoo snubbed ad agencies and created animosity in the industry.

Entertainment companies have begun taking deals with Yahoo beyond trial advertising campaigns. As previously reported, the company is expected to launch a subscription video-streaming service called "Yahoo Platinum," which will compete with RealNetworks' RealOne Superpass.

The service, demonstrated during the company's analysts day last month, will feature content from major media outlets. Yahoo has been in discussions with Fox, Viacom's CBS and Walt Disney's ABCNews.com to carry their content as part of the package, according to sources familiar with the talks.