At Yahoo, content, distribution and curating are all king

Anna Robertson

Anna Robertson

By Jessica Reese (interview) and Randee Dawn (edit)

Whether traditional broadcast, cable, streaming or via web, content creation is at an all-time high – and Yahoo is part of that fabric, securing veteran journalist Katie Couric and cult favorite series Community for fresh material. At this year’s Banff Digital Keynote Series, VP and head of video for Yahoo Anna Robertson spoke about the present and the future of content discovery and distribution – but before she took the stage, she gave Cynsiders a preview of where the search-engine-turned-network is heading.

Cynsiders: Where has digital video made strides in the past year, and where is it still lacking?

Anna Robertson: Great content has truly come to digital platforms. The hardest thing is that the space is so fragmented it’s hard to find the content. Coming off the NewFronts, we saw a tremendous amount of interest [in] shifting dollars to digital…it will happen in the next couple of months. A lot of people are choosing not to have a cable provider or are piecing together Apple TV, Roku or Yahoo or Netflix or different apps. There’s certainly opportunity to harness all those choices.

Cynsiders: What’s the strategy behind picking up canceled shows from other networks, such as Community?

Robertson: Because [they] already have such great fan bases that are passionate about that show, and we can offer more content than they could get on TV. There’s more content on Tumblr blogs and through rich media experiences. We have [Community creator] Dan Harmon giving commentary on each week’s episode, plus extra content.

Cynsiders: You have long form and short form original shows, but content creation remains a pretty experimental space.

Robertson: We were selective with what we wanted to do, and partnered with top creators. In the unscripted area we have been launching series across our 13 “magazines” and we created original video around those niche touch points. Katie Couric has been an incredible opportunity, and we experiment in our three studios.

Cynsiders: Subscription VOD is pretty hot these days. Is it a good strategy?

Robertson: With the challenge of fragmented content, we need a way to simplify [a] service that will play into that subscription discussion, and right now we are piecing together all of these services. If there’s a way to make that simpler, that would be pretty compelling. Right now we all want everything a la carte, but we need to come up with a way to make that work cost-effectively.

Cynsiders: Is content, distribution or curation King in our business now?

Robertson: All of the above. Content is most important: without great content you can’t drive people to anything. That’s what we’re invested in. Yahoo sees this as a big part of our strategy, since we already have the distribution. We also still curate a lot of the content and we can’t provide [that] to our audiences without the process of curation and without partners.

Prior to taking on her role as VP and head of video for Yahoo, Anna Robertson headed up Yahoo Studios and became an Emmy-winning senior producer at Good Morning America.

The Cynsiders column is a platform for industry leaders to reach out to colleagues, followers, and the public at large. In their own words and in targeted Q&As, columnists address breaking news, issues of the day, and the larger changes going on in the ever-evolving world of television, video and digital. Cynsiders columns live on Cynopsis’ main page and are promoted across all daily newsletters. We welcome readers’ comments, queries, and column ideas at RDawn (@) cynopsis.com

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