When I heard the recent news about Community getting rescued by Yahoo Screen, my first thought was, “This is amazing.”
Even if that show isn’t as good as it used to be, I’ll always appreciate the meta-humour that goes down at Greendale Community College, and I’m glad that someone picked it up for Season 6 after NBC threw it away.
Then, my second thought was, “Wait — what the heck is Yahoo Screen?”
So, I looked into it. I’ve never really watched anything on Yahoo before. Have you? No one seems to know about Yahoo’s streaming site. But it exists, and it’s been there for a while.
Yahoo Screen used to be called Yahoo Video, which originally launched as a video-search engine but then became a YouTube-like video-sharing site. In 2011, the website rebranded as Yahoo Screen, and killed the option for users to upload video clips.
In the past few years, the site has become a streaming service for a mishmash of content, and it’s kind of confusing to navigate. It currently combines things in a weird way, bouncing between news reports from ABC News, VEVO music videos from Jack White and LMFAO, highlights from the World Cup and viral videos featuring puppies kissing babies and sea otters holding hands while napping.
A lot of the content comes from partnerships with ABC News, VEVO, CBS, Hulu and others, but visitors from Canada can’t access much of the big-name comedy clips — from shows like Saturday Night Live, South Park, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report — because of licence restrictions.
Now, I don’t want to knock Yahoo Screen entirely — you could actually spend a few hours watching quality stuff here. And since Yahoo Screen makes money by selling ads against programming, it’s entirely free to watch, unlike subscription-based services like Netflix.
But if Yahoo wants to compete with Netflix — and this Community deal hints that they do — then they’ll have to improve their interface, and beef up their original programming to keep visitors lingering and watching more ads.
The sixth season of Community, which should debut by the end of 2014, gives Yahoo an established property to build around. And while the comedy’s viewership numbers have dropped from its strong start in 2009, it still had 2.9 million people tuning in for its latest season finale on NBC.
Until now, Yahoo’s original programming has consisted of short, bite-sized shows. The most notable property — and likely the only one you’ve heard of — is the Emmy-nominated Bachelor spoof Burning Love, produced by Ben Stiller and licensed to MuchMusic in Canada.
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer even recently called her former video strategy a “failed branding exercise,” telling technology news website TechCrunch that her company produced 86 different mini-shows last year, “none of whom you’ve ever heard about.”
Yahoo’s new approach, first announced at the Digital Content NewFronts in April, is to focus on a handful of original long-form shows with higher budgets.
So what else does Yahoo have in its upcoming lineup, to build around Community? Let’s take a look:
If you don’t know the name Paul Feig, you definitely know his work. The TV veteran made his name creating the short-lived (but beloved) series Freaks and Geeks, and then went on to direct episodes of The Office, Arrested Development and Mad Men, before moving on to big screen comedies like Bridesmaids and The Heat. The sci-fi series Other Space marks Feig’s return to TV-style programming. The new show will follow the adventures of a group of spaceship misfits in the 22nd Century, who stumble upon an alternate universe and need to find their way back home. All eight episodes of the show will arrive early in 2015, and Feig’s style of comedy should appeal to fans of Community. It’s a good match.
SIN CITY SAINTS
This series will be set in the front office of a fictional professional basketball team, the first major sports franchise located in Las Vegas. The team is owned by a Silicon Valley billionaire, Jake Tullus, who soon realizes that he’s in way over his head. Executive producer Michael Tollin (Smallville, One Tree Hill) recently told the New York Times that he’s trying to target a “young, mobile, sports-loving audience” for the series. And just like Other Space, all eight episodes of Sin City Saints will arrive in the first quarter of 2015.
LIVE NATION CHANNEL
So it’s not a scripted series, but Yahoo sounds very excited about this project, especially when looking at the potential viewership numbers. Apparently 380 million people around the world watched live-streaming concerts in 2013, up 40% from 2012, according to digital concert website Irocke, which keeps track of this sort of thing. So it makes sense for mega-promoter Live Nation to get in on this action. In the spring, Yahoo and Live Nation announced a deal to live-stream 365 concerts over a 12-month period — yes, that means one concert a day, for a year. The shows will supposedly begin streaming this month, although I haven’t been able to find anything online yet. Still, Live Nation CEO Michael Rapino promises that we’ll be seeing some high-calibre acts. “It’s gotta be compelling, we understand that,” he recently told CNBC. “It’s not going to be B-grade.”
But will you stick around to watch a concert after checking out the latest episode of Community? We’ll have to see. Yahoo, it’s up to you.