Marissa Mayer revs up Yahoo’s video ambitions

Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer clearly sees online video as a key to her company’s turnaround. And now there are some intriguing reports that she wants to challenge Google’s popular YouTube service in a head-on fight.

The well-sourced ReCode blog has reported that Mayer is working on a plan to lure away some of YouTube’s popular stars and channels, by offering both to promote their videos more prominently and to be more generous in sharing potential ad revenue.

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that Yahoo is in talks to buy the online video service known as NDN, or News Distribution Network, for roughly $300 million. Like the ReCode story, the Journal article cites unnamed sources; the Journal also quoted an NDN spokeswoman as denying any acquisition talks are taking place.

Mayer’s interest in video has been known for some time. She trumpeted Yahoo’s hiring of Katie Couric, the former broadcast TV anchor who is now planning to conduct video interviews and preside over Yahoo’s coverage of major news events. She also was rumored last year to be shopping around for other online video services, including Hulu and the European site Dailymotion.  Those deals didn’t happen, however.

As for any challenge to YouTube, the ReCode blog says Mayer’s plans don’t call for creating the kind of open platform that allows users to upload millions of hours of all kinds of video. Instead, she’s apparently looking to provide a new home for some of the most popular stars and channels.

But Mayer’s former bosses at Google aren’t likely to take that challenge lying down. Google recently put its well-regarded ad chief, Susan Wojcicki, in charge at YouTube, and she has been stepping up Google’s efforts to woo both advertisers and video producers for the network.

(As this image from a recent Yahoo earnings webcast shows, Mayer and CFO Ken Goldman are really taking the whole video thing to heart.)


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