As the Internet and the broadcasting industry head for convergence, Yahoo is stepping up its efforts to provide audio and video content through the company's network of Web portals around the world, Jerry Yang, the company's cofounder and self-styled "chief Yahoo," said on Tuesday.
"The possibilities are pretty staggering going forward. We still see this as the tip of the iceberg in terms of how we consume media and how we consume entertainment," Yang said in a keynote speech here at the National Broadcasters Association's (NBA's) annual trade show.
The changes are being driven by wider access to broadband Internet access and the digitization of music, video and other content. Armed with an increasing array of computing devices, consumers will turn to the Web in greater numbers to hear music and watch newscasts, concerts and other live events, Yang predicted.
Through partnerships, Yahoo already offers content from 500 radio stations and 70 television stations via its various Web portals. The company streamed 11 million hours of audio and video to users last month, and provided streaming coverage of 1,000 live events, according to Yang.
In May, Yahoo will provide streaming online coverage of the Victoria's Secret lingerie show from Cannes, France, Yang announced today. The event will be combined with other Yahoo services to let viewers chat with models and enter competitions.
A previous effort to provide streaming coverage of the same show turned into a notorious flop when too many users tried to access the broadcast simultaneously, clogging servers and networks. That ill-starred effort was carried out by Broadcast.com. Yahoo announced it would acquire Broadcast.com in April of last year for $5.7 billion.
While only 11 percent of U.S. homes have a broadband Internet connection today, almost half of Yahoo's 140 million unique monthly visitors access the company's Web site from high-speed connections, mostly from desktop PCs at work, Yang said. The percentage of broadband homes in the US should jump to 30 per cent by 2003, he said, citing research from analyst firm International Data Corp. (IDC).
Yahoo isn't the only Web company pushing hard into the broadband content space. Just last week, rival America Online. (AOL) said it will begin feeding media-rich content to broadband users of its AOL 5.0 software. While Yahoo must rely on partnerships with content providers, AOL will have access to a wealth of music, video and news through its proposed merger with Time Warner, noted one analyst here.
"I noticed that Jerry Yang didn't mention the content aspect of all this" when he described Yahoo's business model, said Tom Wolzien, senior media analyst with Sanford Bernstein & Co in New York.
In a panel discussion earlier today, an executive from search engine company AltaVista said his company has looked hard at a possible merger with a media company.
"We know that two to three years from now we'll need a media partner. ...Either you do it, or you wither away and die," said Ross Levinson, vice president and executive producer of AltaVista Network, a division within AltaVista.
"We've had conversations (about it), just as I'm sure all the other major portals have," he said.