Yahoo Plugs Directly Into Television

Yahoo Inc. unveiled its strategy for moving from the PC to the living room TV.

The entertainment portal announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nev., that it plans to offer software in the coming months that would make it possible to use a variety of Yahoo services, such as video search and digital photos, on a PC-attached TV.

In announcing Yahoo Go TV, the company is taking its services directly to the living room, a move made possible by the growing numbers of high-definition digital TV shown on large LCD and plasma screens.

During the holiday shopping season, plasma TV sales increased 141 percent from a year ago to $305 million, and LCD TV sales rose by 209 percent to $442 million. Sales are expected to climb this year, assuming prices continue to drop.

To access the Yahoo Go TV service, consumers would have to first download software to their PC. Once there, the technology would enable users to grab content from their computer or the Web and display it on what’s often the largest screen in the house. Consumers would navigate Web pages using their TV remote. Besides surfing the Web, Yahoo subscribers would be able to search and watch online video and use Yahoo’s photo service to build slide shows and store and share pictures on the Web. The software would also display video or pictures stored in a computer hard drive, and play music files in the PC and songs from Yahoo’s music service.

Users could also search Yahoo for movie times at local theatres, find movies in a digital video recorder attached to the TV, and store programming on the PC.

“This is about making Internet technology work for people in their daily lives,” Marco Boerries, senior vice president at Yahoo’s Connected Life unit, said in a statement. “We want to give consumers everything they love about the web — the open platform and the ability to find and view what they want, when they want it — on their PC-connected television.”

Yahoo has been interested in television and the entertainment business for years. In 1999, the Sunnyvale, Calif., company bought Web radio company for $5.7 billion, and in 2001, hired current chief executive Terry Semel, former chairman and co-CEO of movie studio Warner Bros.

In recent years, online video has taken off with the dramatic increase in the number of U.S. households with broadband. Portals, such as Yahoo, America Online Inc. and Microsoft Corp.’s MSN, offer TV programming, music videos, animation, movie trailers and lots of other video content.

Yahoo’s focus on entertainment and TV indicates that the company may be looking to evolve into an Internet TV network. But to do that, Yahoo and its rivals would have to start creating or buying original programming, as opposed to redistributing shows from the major networks.

“Unless they actually start creating content, it puts them in a different space than the typical media company,” Steven Kovsky, digital TV analyst for Current Analysis, said.
That space is as an interface, or doorway, to the Web and the PC. As a piece of a home network, Yahoo also becomes a tool for adding value to content, such as adding the ability to share video and pictures with others on the Web, while also communicating with them through instant messaging.

Yahoo Go TV is part of the company’s overall strategy, called Yahoo Go, which looks to extend the company’s reach beyond the Web browser, Semel said during his keynote at CES.

Another piece of that strategy announced Friday was Yahoo Go Mobile, a software package that would enable Web-connected cellular phones to connect to Yahoo’s communication services, such email, messaging, address book and calendars. The package also would connect to Yahoo’s photo service, tap into the company’s search capabilities and access its news, sports and finance information and its games.

In the United States, Yahoo plans to launch Go Mobile through carriers AT&T, formerly SBC Communications Inc., and Cingular Wireless in the coming months. The mobile application is also expected to be pre-installed in some mobile phones, such as the Nokia 6682.

Yahoo plans to launch the service internationally through Nokia.


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