As Yahoo Compares Itself to TV, Content Acquisitions on the Way

Yahoo (s YHOO) CEO Carol Bartz trumpeted the comeback of display advertising on the company’s fourth-quarter call with analysts today by saying: “Frankly, our competition is television.” Yahoo’s display revenue grew 26 percent on a sequential basis, to $503 million, down just 1 percent from the same three-month period a year ago. Bartz said larger advertisers are now getting back in the mix, ready to spend significant money — often out of what used to be their TV budgets.

That “makes video really important,” said Bartz, adding that along with social features, Yahoo expects to integrate video across all of its properties this year. “Social and video should not exist in a silo,” she said. Bartz pointed to the success of Yahoo’s TV recap show “Primetime in No Time” (see NewTeeVee coverage) which saw a high of 12 million daily streams on one occasion in November — larger than the “24” season premiere on television, she pointed out. Bartz also highlighted a deal for more original content production with IAC’s (s iaci) new programming venture, Electus, led by Ben Silverman.

While few online video content companies have had the opportunity for exits post-YouTube, that might change in 2010. Bartz, who has said in the past she wants to acquire video companies, despite Yahoo’s rocky history with both video technology and original video creation, called 2010 a year of “acquisitions and investments to make Yahoo even stronger.” It would not be, she said, “about divestitures.”

A key area of acquisitions will be for companies that have audience, content and community, especially in a niche, said Bartz (other shopping categories are technology and new geographies). She didn’t name any names, but from my reporting on the video market I can think of plenty that fit that bill — say, Next New Networks, Worldwide Biggies or Howcast. Though web video companies generally get more creative than just display advertising, they help connect the dots for Yahoo to compete with television.

Bartz promised would-be acquisition targets that, unlike in the past (like with white-label video site Maven Networks, which cut off customers only a little over a year past being bought for $160 million), Yahoo is now committed to “post-deal accountability.” Meanwhile, Yahoo’s not the only acquirer in the hunt. AOL just paid $36.5 million for StudioNow and its community of video freelancers.

Related GigaOM Pro Content: