The show is on the shortlist for Yahoo’s prospective lineup of big-budget originals, according to multiple sources, but a deal has not been signed. Yahoo is hoping to pick up shows with TV-biz pedigrees to tout at its Digital Content NewFronts presentation for advertisers April 28 in New York. The company is seeking to acquire four 10-episode, half-hour comedies, with budgets of $700,000 to “a few million dollars” per episode, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month.
Reps for Yahoo and Arfin declined to comment. Arfin, whose writing credits also include Fox’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” is repped by WME and managed by Circle of Confusion.
“34 and Pregnant” is an allusion to MTV’s “16 and Pregnant,” a reality series about the travails of teen moms, which premiered its sixth season Monday night. Arfin had previously been developing the mom-com for HBO as a digital-only comedy series for HBO Go.
Yahoo has approached several other Hollywood producers, agents and studios seeking high-profile shows that can generate the kind of buzz that subscription VOD players like Netflix and Amazon have seen with their original TV projects. “At some point they said, ‘We really need our ‘House of Cards,’” according to a senior studio exec who has worked with Yahoo in the past, a directive that came from Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer.
Yahoo chief marketing officer Kathy Savitt is heading up the greenlighting process, and she’s said to be focusing on female-friendly comedies like “34 and Pregnant.” Mayer put Savitt in charge of the media division after firing COO Henrique de Castro in January. Erin McPherson, formerly Yahoo’s head of video who led deals for “Saturday Night Live” and other premium content, left to join Maker Studios.
Yahoo has previously delved into original entertainment programming in shorter-form formats. Last fall it tried to build a comedy block of originals anchored by “SNL,” peppered with clips from Comedy Central and The Onion. But it hasn’t had a breakout hit since “Burning Love” from Paramount’s Insurge Pictures division, a scripted reality-dating parody that had 11 million views for its first season in 2012 and was subsequently picked up by NBCUniversal’s E!.
With the NewFronts now two weeks away, Yahoo is running out of time to ink deals for the kinds of prominent TV shows it wants. “They’re definitely talking to people, but it’s all very slow, very noncommittal,” an exec with a digital studio said.
In addition to the primetime-TV projects, the company is trying to recruit big YouTube personalities, sources said, confirming a recent Re/code report. On another front, it has expanded its distribution deal for Vevo’s music videos to include the Yahoo Screen website and mobile app.
One significant issue Yahoo has grappled with is how it would recoup the cost of producing multimillion-dollar shows. Yahoo doesn’t generate enough video traffic to justify TV-size budgets given the typical rates for ad-supported video, according to a source at one of Yahoo’s content partners. “The Yahoo home page, if you look at how it works, there’s no place to showcase a half-hour comedy,” the exec said.