Yahoo!, Sony Flesh Out Movie Marketing Details

Web portal Yahoo will promote several upcoming Sony Pictures films, through a new deal that comes as part of an earlier relationship with the studio’s owner, Sony Corp. of America.

Under the terms of Wednesday’s agreement, Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Yahoo will market and advertise Drew Barrymore’s “Riding in Cars with Boys,” which is slated for release on Friday.

In addition to an unspecified amount of media, Yahoo’s Movies area will provide showtime listings, behind-the-scenes footage, interviews with stars, trailers, and still shots from the film’s production. Yahoo Auctions, meanwhile, will contain wardrobe items from the movie, while the portal’s email marketing unit, Yahoo Delivers, is to send messages to opted-in movie fans.

Yahoo’s continued work with Sony suggests good things for the portal, which is struggling with slipping advertising revenues and a crisis over its position as rivals like Microsoft’s MSN and AOL Time Warner crank the competition up by a notch.

In keeping with language used by chief executive Terry Semel during the company’s earnings call last week, Yahoo said the effort would deliver a “personalized and compelling message” to its audience — a phrase that’s become something of a slogan for the beleaguered Web portal in recent months.

“By working with the [Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment] team to provide online integrated marketing solutions for their upcoming films, we have access to some of the highest quality of entertainment content available today,” said Ellen Siminoff, who is senior vice president of Yahoo Entertainment. “As a leader in entertainment, Sony and its properties are an enormous draw for our users and we look forward to offering a high level of content on the most anticipated titles to come out of the studio.”

The next film scheduled for promotion is “Ali,” which opens Dec. 25. Ads featuring the movie and its star, Will Smith, are already appearing in Yahoo Movies and elsewhere on the portal.

Sony and Yahoo first began working together in late July, signing a broad agreement for the Web portal to promote Sony consumer electronic products, television shows, music and film releases. Under that deal, Yahoo agreed to create joint Web sites (including Sony-branded areas on My Yahoo personalized portals), e-commerce opportunities for the electronic giant’s Sony Style retail unit on Yahoo Shopping, and co-branded versions of the Yahoo Companion Web browser toolbar and Yahoo Messenger instant message application.

Until now, however, Yahoo and Culver City, Calif.-based Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment had not finalized details of their film marketing plans, aside from announcing that they likely would include “Ali” and two other upcoming films, “The Panic Room” and “Deeds.”

“We always want to reach more people and provide them with richer content,” said Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment president Yair Landau. “With Yahoo’s vast marketing and research resources, we will be able to target varied audiences for each motion picture release with customized programs and enhance the Sony movie-going experience.”

That ongoing work also benefits Yahoo in ways apart from new ad revenue. Through its original deal, The Web portal received a consulting contract for a revamp of Sony’s U.S. corporate portal, which the firms said they envision becoming an “interconnected Web community” of Sony product users.

While specific terms were not disclosed, Sony in July also agreed to some amount of marketing and promotion on behalf of the portal. For instance, Sony said its VAIO computers would be preloaded with software to register for membership on Yahoo. Additionally, Sony’s branded My Yahoo page also became the default start page of Sony’s ISP service

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