Yahoo! to Launch Platinum Content


After several days of buildup, Yahoo! Inc. executives waxed poetic about the possibilities of the new Yahoo! Platinum premium Internet content service, but offered few details.

Speaking at an all-day analyst briefing, Yahoo! cofounder Jerry Yang said Yahoo! Platinum, set to launch this summer, would offer behind-the-scenes footage, outtakes, interviews and special events from several genres. Yang showed a clip from Fox's American Idol
as an example of the service, but declined to name which content providers will be involve or disclose details on pricing.

"We'll roll out content partnerships in the next couple of months," Yang said. "It will play both in narrowband and broadband."

The move would put Yahoo! in competition with Real Networks Inc. and the dozen or so subscription services built around its RealOne SuperPass. The $9.95-per-month service has attracted 900,000 subscribers.

Some pay now

Yahoo! has offered paid content services — many aided by broadband — for some time. A year ago, it launched a Games on Demand service featuring many PC titles.

Last month, the Web portal provider launched a paid version of its Internet radio service, priced at $3.99 per month.

Yahoo "counts" 2.2 million paying customers. Close to half those subscribers are narrowband or broadband Internet-access customers of SBC Communications Inc., which has a portal content deal with Yahoo!.

Such subscription services as e-mail and personal ads, as well as the SBC numbers, account for more than 70 percent of Yahoo!'s subscriber rolls, executives said.

The company is talking with MSOs and other telcos about providing Yahoo!'s services to subscribers, executives said. It sees a tie between broadband and its subscription offerings.

"Broadband really accelerates this shift," said Yahoo! senior vice president of consumer services Jim Brock, who noted that consumers are increasingly willing to pay for content on top of high-speed access.

"We see broadband as a truly powerful channel," he said. "Consumers are more comfortable with paying for Web content."

Unbundling due

With the move to broadband, Brock envisions a shift to a climate in which content and connectivity are unbundled. (When an audience member opined that AOL's $14.95 charge for content on top of $49 broadband access was steep, Brock replied: "I couldn't agree with you more.")

"It's an era of greater choice with connectivity and content," he said.

The Yahoo-SBC deal is an example of such choice, he said, and a deal he hopes could pave the way for transactions with other broadband players, including cable operators.

Brock said Yahoo! could offer service bundled with or without access, opening the door for MSOs to sell, Yahoo! Platinum alongside cable-modem service, for example.