Yahoo, Google, and AOL are investing more heavily in original video content, motivated by rising consumer demand for short-form series and strong advertiser interest in premium pre-roll ad inventory.
Last Tuesday, the day after it announced a content alliance with ABC News, Yahoo unveiled a slew of new video series geared toward women, featuring talent such as Morgan Spurlock ("Supersize Me") and Judy Greer ("Arrested Development"). It also signaled plans to syndicate the content to sources off its own site, including both web and connected TV platforms.
Yahoo's announcement came just days after a reports suggested that Google will pour more than $100 million into funding original video content.
Many of Yahoo's new shows are geared to women, including "Let’s Talk About Love" with Niecy Nash (pictured), "Reluctantly Healthy" with Judy Greer, and "Chow Ciao," a food and cooking show hosted by Top Chef celeb host Fabio Viviani. Sponsors attached to the programs - among them Uniliver, Kraft, and Proctor & Gamble - enjoy "light" product placement within the shows as well as overt pre-roll and other branded placements, according to Yahoo.
Meanwhile AOL's new video menu (consisting of more than 15 new shows) is also heavy on content geared toward women, with titles such as "Little Women, Big Cars" and "Jocks and Jills". It also includes shows for men ("The Engadget Show") and teens ("CliffsNotes Films").
Just as it did for its deal with ABC News, Yahoo trotted out a line-up of show hosts during the unveiling of its women's programming slate. Greer, Nash, and others said the appeal of working with Yahoo was creative control and the chance to reach millions of women who access the company's homepage and other properties.
Yahoo is working with a number of independent production studios, as well as its in-house Yahoo Studios unit, to produce the new programming. Partner studios include Electus, Spurlock's Warrior Poets, and FishBowl Worldwide Media. Google is doing the same, funding projects both through partners such as Warner Bros. and News Corp.'s ShineReveille unit. It is also developing new programming through its Next New production division, acquired earlier this year.
Yahoo emphasized the new shows represent an acceleration of its already sizeable original video effort and not the beginning of a new strategy. The company says its female video viewing audience reached 13 million during August, and it is already producing 200 new episodes per month for 20 shows - not counting the new ones.
But the company also acknowledged it needs to do more to promote its video programming and distribute it beyond Yahoo's own properties. Mickie Rosen, a former News Corp. and Disney online exec who is now SVP of Yahoo Media Network, said the company will conduct research to demonstrate audience engagement with its video programming and ads.
"We need to develop key metrics to demonstrate not only consumer behavior but also ad effectiveness," she said.
Meanwhile some smaller sites are also keen to offer premium video programming. EBay Motors recently launched two video series, "modJOBS" and "World's Fastest Car Shows." The company says its autos site draws more than 14 million people monthly. Ford Motor Company, Eibach Springs and Magnaflow Exhaust are among the marketers aligning themselves with the shows.