Low-key Yahoo! sits out deal frenzy

Google touts Video Store, celebs make appearance at CES

Are a bunch of Silicon Valley geeks outmaneuvering the former co-chair of Warner Bros. at his own game?

One could be forgiven for thinking so at last week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where Google announced its Video Store, which will include TV shows from CBS and games from the NBA, as well as let amateur filmmakers sell their own content through the search giant.

No one would have predicted just a few years back that Google co-founder Larry Page, a former Stanford grad student and consummate techhead, would be onstage with CBS topper Leslie Moonves to announce a new partnership.

Even fewer, however, would have foreseen Terry Semel, the consummate Hollywood insider, presenting a suite of new software products as CEO of Yahoo, the world’s biggest Internet company.

Founded to perfect Internet searches, Google has expanded its horizons to include shopping, movie showtimes and now online video.

When Semel joined Yahoo in 2001, many expected a slew of Hollywood partnerships. But even with the hire of former ABC topper Lloyd Braun to oversee content, that hasn’t happened.

While rivals Page and Steve Jobs have struck deals to sell TV shows or other content, Yahoo hasn’t made a significant pact with a Hollywood studio or production company in more than a year. Most of its innovations in 2005 came in music, maps, and searches.

There are rumblings that Yahoo has big production deals in the works, while Google is pouring billions into tech-related R&D.

But at a CES that also featured appearances by Tom Cruise, Ellen DeGeneres and Tom Hanks, one thing was undeniable: It’s getting harder and harder tell the kings of showbiz from the kings of tech.

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