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Yahoo's Screen PlayYahoo's Screen Play

Why won't Yahoo act like a real media company?

Phil Harvey

February 7, 2007

2 Min Read
Yahoo's Screen Play

4:00 PM -- Last month, we discovered that Yahoo has the talent, content connections, and technology to bring a true broadband Internet TV service to its members in the U.S. Yahoo could provide a real alternative to consumer cable television. All you would need is a fast Internet connection and some way to run some software and decode the signal, like a media center PC or an Xbox in your livingroom.

But in a trip to Yahoo headquarters last week, the company put to rest any theories that it would ever compete with cable TV or telco TV providers.

"We're not going to recreate television," says Yahoo senior product manager Arleen Agricola. "We're going to enhance what television can provide."

Why not do both?

Or maybe a better question: What kind of company is Yahoo?

It doesn't own any content, outside of the few shows it creates to show advertisers what's possible on the Web. It doesn't make any devices that consumers have in their homes. It doesn't invest in entertainment as a priority, like the Hollywood studios or major record labels.

It does sell music. But so do Napster, Rhapsody, eMusic.com, NexTune, Sony Connect, iTunes, Wal-Mart, Amazon.com... Need I go on?

It does offer Internet advertising and Internet search, but not as well as Google.

It's still a nice place to visit on the Web; I visit a My Yahoo page daily. But most of the Web-based services it offers (online video sharing, Web-based email, photo sharing) are things that Microsoft and dozens of other companies also offer, all for free, with very little distinction among them.

I guess what bugs me about Yahoo is that it excels at doing stuff that everyone else is already doing. Worse, it doesn't appear to realize what a great opportunity it could have in providing a unique broadband TV experience to consumers. If Yahoo did something more than TV Lite, a portal to Web-based services with a slick TV interface, I think it could show the world what's truly possible with the infrastructure it worked so hard to build.

Sure, broadband TV would put the company in direct competition with business partners such as AT&T, the cable companies, and other TV service providers. Well, get over it. Any company distributing IP content will eventually compete with every other company distributing IP content. Speaking as someone who makes a living creating, owning, and distributing online content, I can say, with authority, that it's nuts out there.

My point: If a real Web biggie like Yahoo decides to deliver broadband TV, consumers will appreciate the choice, especially if it's different than the standard fare offered by basic cable, satellite TV, and the like.

But what media companies truly have the courage to be unique these days?

— Phil Harvey, Managing Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Phil Harvey

Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading, Light Reading

Phil Harvey has been a Light Reading writer and editor for more than 18 years combined. He began his second tour as the site's chief editor in April 2020.

His interest in speed and scale means he often covers optical networking and the unsung technologies powering the modern Internet.

Harvey covered networking, Internet infrastructure and dot-com mania in the late 90s for Silicon Valley magazines like UPSIDE and Red Herring before joining Light Reading (for the first time) in late 2000. After moving to the Republic of Texas, Harvey spent eight years as a contributing tech writer for D CEO magazine, producing one-off columns about everything from supercomputing startups to nanotech discoveries. Those columns aged about as well as an open carton of milk on hell's front porch.

Harvey is an avid photographer and camera collector – if compulsive shopping and "collecting" are the same thing. His work can be seen by opening one of the dozen dusty shoe boxes in his attic and bedroom closet. "Don't wake up the gray cat," is his advice to art curators of the future.

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