Yahoo is all about edgy hipster comedy and dude entertainment, right?
OK, those are maybe not the first images that pop into your mind when thinking of the portal, home of brands such as OMG and Shine. But based on its slate of video series introduced tonight at its NewFront event in New York, the company appears committed to original content (at least for now) and committed to upping its cool and testosterone quotients.
Coming on the heels of big success for its reality spoof Burning Love and its recent eye-opening deal to secure nearly 40 years of clips from Saturday Night Live, Yahoo announced several new series in that vein, including Tiny Commando, an action movie spoof series about “a four-inch tall crime fighter” featuring Ed Helms (The Hangover), Zachary Levi (Chuck) and Gillian Jacobs (Community). Commando will be shot using small radio-controlled model cars and camera tricks that will make the actors look equally small.
In fact, at the NewFront, Helms arrived on the stage operating a remote-controlled helicopter. "I don't just play a nerd in movies," said Helms. "I used to try and make little tiny Michael Bay movies in my backyard...[Now] I'm wearing jeans and a blazer. It's an Internet thing."
Another series in the works for this fall is We Need Help, a scripted series produced by Vuguru which will feature Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm) and Rachael Harris (Best Week Ever) as execs sharing a personal assistant. During an on-stage skit, the pair incessantly complained how cold they were, leading their male assistant to eventually hand over his shirt.
“We’re really leaning into smart, edgy comedy,” Erin McPherson, Yahoo’s vp, head of video, told Adweek. “With shows like Burning Love, I believe we’ve cracked the code with that program. It's clearly one that resonates with our audience. Season 1 generated 11 million viewers and frankly we’re seeing bigger numbers for Seasons 2 and 3. Tiny Commando is very much in that Burning Love voice."
In addition, along the lines of the SNL deal, Yahoo has inked a video distribution pact with WWE that will include two original weekly series (including a 30-minute Monday Night Raw preshow), clips from the current season and exclusive access to years of classic WWE footage, including entire matches. Yahoo will also program several live preshow events throughout the WWE season.
WWE should help bring new eyeballs to Yahoo, which could help promote the company’s originals, said McPherson. As for the new comedies, Yahoo plans to roll out 100 episodes of its new comedy shows all at once this fall (including the new puppet cop show The Fuzz), encouraging its users to binge-view, if desired. The company will continue to promote its shows week by week.
Other originals include Losing Your Virginity with John Stamos, during which the Full House hunk will interview celebrities about their deflowerments. Stamos, appearing on stage with director Morgan Spurlock, joked that his virginity loss involved "Boone's wine."
Several lifestyle shows are in the works, including Fashion Recipe (celebrity stylist Brett Alan Nelson focuses on a single item of clothing), Cinema & Spice (hosts Juliana Strickland and Natasha Feldman discuss film and food) and Grill Girls (Chef Megan Mitchell talks cooking everything from pizza to peaches on the grill).
Beyond originals, Yahoo is also looking to ramp up its content partnerships with big media companies. Among the projects announced today are several digital-only versions of ABC News series (the two firms announced a partnership in 2011), including World News Behind the Headlines, Nightline Online and GMA Live. ABC News director Ben Sherman, appearing on stage with the hosts of Nightline, credited Yahoo for helping Good Morning America catch NBC's Today Show in the ratings race by exposing the show to more potential viewers.
Also on the TV front, Yahoo announced a new CNBC production Talking Numbers, along with a deal to distribute content for Condé Nast. In fact, during the NewFront, the CNBC host taped a live interview with WPP Group CEO Sir Martin Sorrell, who predicted that "in four to five years, two-thirds of our spending will be in digital."
Overall, Yahoo seems to be out to send the message that it’s quite serious about building a major Web video business, despite some speculation to the contrary. CEO Marissa Mayer introduced the night's festivities, using the phrase "premium content" multiple times.
“We’ve grown up,” said McPherson. “Some of this content may be eyebrow-raising, as will some of the ad products we’re unveiling. We’re innovating in a way you haven't seen in years."