Yahoo Guns for TV’s Upfront Ad Dollars

Make room for another major player in the upcoming TV upfront season—Yahoo.

The beleaguered portal is looking to significantly ramp up its original video output this year and–even more boldly—capture TV dollars.

This week, Yahoo's gossip site omg! will premiere Inside & Out, a celebrity-themed series focused on fitness, nutrition, and beauty—think Salma Hayek's juicing routines or Katy Perry's makeup secrets. The show, sponsored by Jeep, is the latest in a growing roster of Yahoo Web series.

Under recently installed media head Mickie Rosen, Yahoo is planning to launch seven to 10 new series this year, pushing the total number past 30. The hope is to build an aggressive slate of programming that defines Yahoo, around a central demographic or theme, along the lines of CBS' procedurals and NBC's Must-See TV.

In fact, executives are still mulling whether to hold an upfront-styled event this year for advertisers.

"Our shows reach more uniques in a given month than visit Hulu, and rival some cable networks," says Erin McPherson, video programming head at Yahoo. For example, Prime Time in No Time reached nearly 7 million uniques in February.

McPherson wants Yahoo to do fewer "wrap up" shows like Prime Time (which provides highlights of popular TV series) and take more risks, including scripted series.

Its potential partners think that's the right move. "They've got a great audience, and now they are trying to put out better quality content," says Electus COO Drew Buckley. "As a producer that's great. [Eventually you'll see] a lot of personality popping from Yahoo and that will separate them."

Sounds great—but can they really go after the upfront? "Yes, absolutely," says McPherson. "We definitely want to play that way."