Yahoo Media Group Stumbles, Moves On

Even while Yahoo embarks on a new partnership for user-generated video content, another is ending. A new deal with Reuters to submit photos and videos of newsworthy events is offset by the early termination of a high-profile partnership with Al Gore’s Current TV, which began just over two months ago.

The Yahoo Current Network launched in September with four content channels, and promised to expand to eight channels by the end of 2007. A message on Current TV’s Yahoo Current page says that the Yahoo Current launch contest ended on December 1, and that uploads to the Yahoo Current Network are no longer being accepted. Users are advised to submit content to other areas of Current TV instead.

The highly touted offering marked a significant entry into user-generated video for Yahoo, which is struggling to compete against more established competitors like Google’s YouTube, AOL Video and its partner Brightcove.

The Current TV deal and it’s aftermath also speaks to an ongoing internal struggle at Yahoo highlighted by the recent “Peanut Butter Manifesto,” an internal memo that called attention to Yahoo’s spread-thin focus and redundant assets. Instead of the coming out of the Santa Monica-based Yahoo Media Group or that group’s Yahoo Studios division, the Current TV arrangement was brokered and handled by the company’s social media group in the Sunnyvale headquarters.

Yahoo Studios has had some success with its Yahoo Entertainment Talent Show and the popular mash-up of user-generated video and editorially selected content, “The 9,” launched in August.

Both of those efforts were spearheaded by David Katz, a former CBS TV exec brought to Yahoo in July 2005 to head Yahoo’s sports and entertainment ventures. Katz was tapped to lead Yahoo Studios when it was formed in the spring of 2006 as the go-to division for original content initiatives, but Katz has recently left the company, according to a Yahoo spokesperson.

A report in Hollywood trade magazine Variety blames Katz’s departure on a falling out with Yahoo Media Group head Lloyd Braun. A Yahoo spokesperson declined to provide a reason for the move, saying only that initiatives in both Sports and Studios will be led by existing executives in the Media Group.

The Media Group and social media team continue to work in parallel with each other on user-generated video initiatives. Last week, Yahoo’s social media team announced a new “brand universe” strategy, which creates mini-sites for brands by incorporating user-generated video and several of Yahoo’s social media properties, such as MyWeb, Flickr, and del.icio.us.

This week, the Media Group unveiled a new initiative with Reuters, dubbed “You Witness,” that allows users to submit newsworthy photos and video clips that will be considered for inclusion on Yahoo News, as well as for distribution to partners like Reuters, the Associated Press and CNN. Yahoo plans to expand the program to sports, entertainment and other areas of its site.

CNN has been showing user-generated videos through its “I-Report” feature of the CNN Exchange, a user-generated area of its site launched in July. The site allows users to submit photos, audio, video, or articles. The content is used in CNN’s Web-based reporting, and occasionally makes its way to CNN TV reports.

The Yahoo Media Group also announced two other non-user-generated video deals this week. Monday, it announced that it will begin showing Fox News videos on Yahoo Finance under a co-branded video initiative, “FOX Business Now.” And on Friday, Yahoo News began showing news video from BBC News.

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