Yahoo to Partner With TV Show

Times Staff Writer

Yahoo Inc. is boasting ties to a Hollywood treasure-trove.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company plans to announce today that it is partnering with Paramount Television Group's popular celebrity news program "Entertainment Tonight."

Under the deal, terms of which are not being disclosed, Yahoo will take over the Web site for "Entertainment Tonight," sell its advertising space and stream video clips of its celebrity interviews, including outtakes not seen on the show.

The move, long desired by Yahoo, inches the Internet portal closer to its goal of becoming an Internet entertainment destination, executives say.

The relationship also benefits Paramount, owned by Viacom Inc., by boosting the profile of its successful 22-year-old syndicated show as well as its online operation, which has struggled to attract viewers and advertisers.

"We want to be a 24/7 news source, and our show is only on 30 minutes a day," said Michael Mischler, Paramount Domestic Television's marketing executive vice president. "This allows us to leverage ourselves to a whole new audience."

The deal underscores the growing migration of TV content to the Internet.

As millions of computer users upgrade to high-speed Internet connections that can accommodate video streams, Web sites and online services are rushing to lure advertisers and viewers with bonus features. They are adding to their sites three- and four-minute videos of movie trailers, news segments and sports highlights.

The trend also signals the Internet's emerging threat to the economic model of TV, which relies on advertisers spending tens of thousands of dollars for a 30-second spot on a program that airs at a certain time.

As the technology improves and more entertainment content moves online, viewers will be able to turn to their laptops and personal computers to see TV shows on their own schedule.

"This is a step toward offering consumers what they want, and when they want it -- and on whatever screen they are watching," said Van Baker, an analyst with GartnerG2, a technology research company based in Stamford, Conn.

"It's the natural evolution of richer content being available on the Web," he said.

Entrepreneurs tried in the late 1990s to deliver made-for-Internet sit-coms and dramas, but that flopped, mainly because few homes were connected to the Internet at speeds high enough to receive quality pictures.

But now that an estimated 20 million homes have high-speed hookups, established media companies are experimenting by repackaging their news and sports clips for online use.

Yahoo's liaison with "Entertainment Tonight" is not the first of its kind.

Last year, competitor Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Internet site joined forces with NBC Enterprises' show "Access Hollywood," promoting it on MSN's home page and offering a "video vault" of "Access Hollywood" clips for viewers to sample. Traffic to the site soared: There were 2.5 million users in June, three times the number of visitors recorded the previous year.

"TV shows are partnering with sites like MSN because they really want to cast a wider net," said Christine Andrews, MSN product manager.

Fueling the growth is the switch by consumers to high-speed, or broadband, Internet connections, as prices for those services have come down. About 20% of computer-using households now have high-speed connections, according to Gartner's research, up from 15% last year.

Jim Moloshok, Yahoo's senior vice president for media and entertainment, said he had been interested in a partnership with "Entertainment Tonight" for nearly two years. But Paramount didn't bite right away, preferring to keep its options open.

However, the companies decided to team up to compete with MSN after a successful collaboration in March when they hosted an Academy Awards Web site that helped steer new traffic to Yahoo. The portal's movie section is becoming a hot spot, logging more than 7.3 million visitors last month, or double the viewership it posted in January 2002.

"As more and more people are turning to the Internet as a source for their entertainment news and information, this relationship helps meet the growing demand," Moloshok said.

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Times staff writer Jon Healey contributed to this report.

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