Yahoo Gets in on Tough Sports Markets in Pairing with Turner

Yahoo has entered a new sports content and advertising deal with Time Warner-owned Turner Broadcasting System. The partnership gives Yahoo video and editorial content from the official sites of several sports leagues, including NBA.com, PGATOUR.com, PGA.com and NASCAR.com, which Turner manages. Meanwhile Turner now has the exclusive right to sell all advertising in that content on Yahoo.

“We focus on seeking out the best monetization opportunities for our assets,” said Todd Teresi, SVP of Yahoo Publisher Network, who suggested Turner’s TV sales capabilities and bundled cross-platform offerings would help Yahoo get in on an otherwise evasive advertiser market. Because Turner has ad deals with the leagues involved, and has a hold on the ad market when it comes to their content, it makes sense for Yahoo to partner with the broadcasting company rather than try to compete for ad dollars, he explained.

“This is part of our strategy of best monetization of our assets and seeking out the best sales forces to be part of our network,” he told ClickZ News. “We’re better off partnering with companies that have created a sustainable competitive advantage. Now we’re able to tap into budgets we really weren’t able to tap into before.”

The agreement also gives Yahoo a foothold in television. For instance, said Teresi, Yahoo could benefit from Turner’s relationships with PGA Tour television and Web sponsors like FedEx if the advertiser also chooses to buy on Yahoo.

Yahoo does have competencies in ad sales around specific sports, including football and baseball. In April, for instance, Major League Baseball Advanced Media signed a deal giving Yahoo rights to feature subscription-based live games in a co-branded video player, as well as the ability to sell video ads in that content through the 2010 season. “We have a lot of strength [in the [MLB] market,” said Teresi.

From the point of view of Turner, the deal allows the network to “extend our reach… and generate incremental revenue for our league partners,” said David Levy, president of Turner Broadcasting Sales. In some cases, the companies expect unique users to nearly double as a result of the relationship.

“There’s not a lot of duplication in the audiences,” said Levy.

Additionally, Turner will have exclusive rights to user data from the Yahoo league sites that feature its content, according to Levy. Access to behavioral data may also allow Turner to target ads to sports fans while they’re visiting other Yahoo destinations, for instance Yahoo Real Estate or Yahoo Travel. Levy added the information gleaned from Yahoo can’t be employed to target ads to those users while on NASCAR.com or other league sites.

Unlike other similar content and advertising deals Yahoo has with publisher partners such as WebMD for health content, and CNET for technology content, Turner is now the sole seller of advertising in the golf, basketball and NASCAR content it distributes on Yahoo. The exclusivity factor is especially significant for Turner. “This helps us build our sports digital strategy… but also manage and control it,” Levy said.

“Advertisers want to be able to go to one organization to be able to cross all platforms,” he continued, “so it’s a way to properly manage the inventory.”

Levy stressed the pact enables Turner to form similar partnerships with other publishers. “We can take the same model or a similar type model and extend it to other platforms, for instance AOL,” he said.

While many of Yahoo’s publisher deals, including its deals with newspaper publishers, are aimed at establishing Yahoo’s ad platform as the primary system for those partners, that’s not necessarily the case for Turner. “It can run either way,” said Teresi, explaining Turner will use Yahoo’s ad platform for things like behavioral targeting and forecasting, “but they’re not replacing their existing standalone platforms.”

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