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Current TV Says Yahoo to New Ally

Al Gore’s venture into “viewer-created” video content has booted Google to the bottom of the half hour.

Current TV, the San Francisco television service of which Gore is chairman, on Sept. 20 launched a handful of online video channels in concert with Yahoo, the World Wide Web portal whose collection of sites are visited by more computer users than any other.

The four channels employ both brands. They include: Yahoo Current Buzz, which promises a daily video report on what’s “buzzing the world and on the Web;” Yahoo Current Action, which will feature sports videos created by athletes and participants; Yahoo Current Drive, about exotic cars; and Yahoo Current Traveler, a “globe-spanning bulletin board” of reports from travelers about places they visit.

'PREMIUM OFFERING’

Four more channels, subjects unknown, will launch later.

“This will be the premium video offering’’ online, Current TV CEO Joel Hyatt said.

The alliance with Yahoo gives Current a way to potentially leapfrog the darling of user-generated video content, YouTube, as well as the rapidly expanding social network, MySpace, in reaching a mass audience with a combination of professionally and amateur-produced video reports (see “Applying Current,” p. 24, Sept. 18, 2006).

The alliance will affect not just Current’s approach to delivering video to computer users through the Internet, but what is shown on the TV network.

Until now, the “buzz” on the Net was captured in a feature called Google Current that appeared at the top of the hour and the bottom of the hour on the digital Current network that appears on Comcast and Time Warner cable systems, as well as the DirecTV satellite-delivered video service. Now, Google Current gets dropped to the bottom of the hour, with Yahoo Current taking its place.

Current appears to have struck its online partnership largely on the basis of reach. Yahoo’s sites were visited by 129.4 million computer users in July, according to ComScore Media Metrix. Google’s sites, by contrast, were visited by 103.9 million. MySpace had 54.5 million visitors; YouTube 16.1 million.

Yahoo’s reach could be salve to Current’s wound. Current launched on Aug. 1, 2005, and had devoted its Web site largely to teaching computer users how to create videos that could be compelling and appear on its TV network. YouTube launched, formally, in December 2005. And quickly overtook Current in becoming the standard-bearer for and favorite site of individuals wanting to produce their own videos and get them viewed worldwide. At last estimate, videos posted to YouTube got watched more than 100 million times each day.

The Yahoo Current channels are rather modest in the amount of content they will present each day, however.

One professionally produced segment will be generated and appear each day on each Yahoo Current channel, said Jason Zajac, Yahoo’s vice president and general manager for its Social Media Group. Another half-dozen or so new clips created by viewers will be added each day to each channel.

To date, each Current video clip or “pod,’’ in its vernacular, runs between two and five minutes, in general.

'DAILY SHOW’ ALUM

Besides allying with the most-visited set of Web sites extant, Current TV gets a couple other pieces of buzz, in this overhaul of its approach to delivering video online.

Producing daily features on Yahoo Current Buzz: Madeleine Smithberg, co-creator and former executive producer of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

And the first viewer-submitted feature on Yahoo Current Traveler comes from Bono, the iconic lead singer of the Irish rock band U2. The subject matter of his directorial debut: “A Day in the Life of The Edge,’’ shot in Miami.

Yahoo’s Current video announcement didn’t help its financial prospects. CEO Terry Semel on Tuesday told attendees at a Goldman Sachs conference in New York that online advertising was not picking up as hoped. Tailing off: financial services and auto advertising, in particular. The stock plunged $4, from $29.13 to $25.10, closing at $25.75.