Why Yahoo Shared an Investor Meeting in Omaha With the World

Livestreaming leads to deals with big brands

As Yahoo begins to dig out of a massive hack attack of 1 billion accounts dating back to 2014, its News, Finance and Sports sites are moving forward with ambitious plans for 2017. While that may include some sort of combination with AOL's editorial assets when Verizon closes its multibillion-dollar deal for the company, Yahoo clearly is pressing ahead with its livestreaming efforts. In April 2016, for the first time Yahoo Finance livestreamed the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting; a profitable venture for the industry-leading site (Yahoo Finance in November recorded 63 million monthly unique visitors, per comScore). This livestream was Yahoo Finance's longest, most complex endeavor to date, given it hosted the event on its platform.

How did it come to pass? Who watched? And what did the sponsors think? Yahoo Finance opens the books and gives Adweek access and insight into the planning, execution and results of the deal

It all started with an email from Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett. "It said, 'Call me,'" recalled Yahoo Finance editor Andy Serwer. "So, I called him up. And he said 'I've got this idea. What do you think about livestreaming my annual meeting?' And I said 'yes' as quickly as I could!" 


Upwards of 40,000 people travel to Omaha, Neb., for the annual meeting, but a continuous global livestream would bring the daylong event to the world. "Five-hundred thousand people in China watched it live. And that was with a 12-hour time difference," said Serwer.


Yahoo needed to find sponsors to help defray the costs. TD Ameritrade and Scottrade signed on as pre-show and halftime report sponsors. "They were thrilled with the fact that it was a global stream and that close to 40 percent of the streams actually happened overseas," noted Yahoo global revenue chief Lisa Utzschneider.


The first-of-its-kind meeting was Buffett's idea. "I asked him later why he came to us," said Serwer. "He said there were several reasons: you successfully executed an NFL game. (The Buffalo Bills-Jacksonville Jaguars matchup in October 2015 netted 15.2 million viewers.) You have the technology to do it. You have the global platform. And, then he also said, 'I have this relationship with you and I know that I can just call you up anytime and get through to you.'"


The 7-hour and 10-minute livestream was deemed a success for Yahoo, its viewers and clients. "We're not bound by the confines of a traditional broadcast schedule," said Yahoo svp and global editor in chief Martha Nelson. "Being a digitally native platform gives us flexibility in how and when we can program these special events." Added Francie Staub, digital marketing director, TD Ameritrade: "Through our sponsorship of this iconic event, we have the unique opportunity to share our message of financial empowerment to a large, highly engaged and passionate group of investors."


"We learned a lot about our own company, especially when it comes to the global and technological span of Yahoo," noted Serwer. Below, Yahoo Finance's take-aways:

Audience: The global demand was not fully known until the livestream had concluded.

Quality Counts: There are different types of video streams, and using the top quality stream is critical—even if it costs more.

Build on Success: With the well-received Berkshire Hathaway stream, Yahoo Finance will produce its own all-day live conference event for the first time. The conference will be announced in early 2017.

Leverage: The livestream has created a showcase for Yahoo. State Farm will launch a new campaign with Yahoo Sports for the 2016-17 NBA season, part of which will include live video. And General Mills recently signed on as a sponsor for the newly launched Yahoo Esports Live.


This story first appeared in the January 2, 2017 issue of Adweek magazine.

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