Yahoo unveils new originals

Execs try to excite, reassure advertisers

Yahoo unveiled a new men’s slate, Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes sang “Blister in the Sun” and Anthony Zuiker asked, “Why not Yahoo?” as he previewed his film “Cybergeddon” at the Netco’s upfront in Gotham.

The new guys block includes an untitled talkshow with Jeff Goldblum; “Stunt Nation,” with Sal Masekela; “Yahoo! Sports Minute,” hosted by Angela Sun; “KaBoom!,” about blowing things up; lifestyle series “The MANual”‘ and “Superfans,” about extreme fandom. Most will premiere in July.

Yahoo also announced a new 90-minute animated sci-fi adventure series from Tom Hanks called “Electric City,” its first foray into scripted programming.

And “Rock of Ages” creator Matt Weaver introduced his new 1980s musical comedy series “Dancing With Myself,” to debut in 2013.

Yahoo’s event ramped up the Hollywood factor as the first Digital Newfronts, which started last week, continue to roll out. Some advertisers seem increasingly sanguine. “There are eyeballs. You can’t deny the eyeballs when they’re there,” said one media buyer from a major agency. “You do get more optimistic, because you see the content,” he said.

Yahoo reaches over 700 million viewers globally, 130 million in the U.S. Some 35 million of them watch its original programming. The network already has a women’s slate, a comedy slate and a deal in place with ABC News. A new show with Katie Couric, “Katie’s Take,” launches next week.

Yahoo’s been through a rough time; it’s a perennial takeover target whose new CEO just laid off 2,000 staffers. But its finance, sports and news sites are massive, and its entertainment offerings are growing.

“I know there are lingering questions about Yahoo. Is Yahoo still relevant?” said Ross Levinsohn, exec VP and head of global media. “Hopefully, we continue to put those lingering questions to rest.”

“We’re here to stay, and we’re digging in. So spend some money,” he urged advertisers. Unlike cable and broadcasters, the Netcos have no problem begging. AOL, which announced 10 new digital networks on Tuesday, gave a way a Mustang convertible at the end of its event.

They all seem surprised at the massive Madison Avenue turnout.

“I never thought I’d see the day when I’d be standing in front of 500-600 people talking about video content on the Web,” said Levinsohn.

But Yahoo tried to keep it humble. In an upfront bit, Ken Marino, the actor who plays a fireman featured in Web series “Burning Love” — a dating show spoof from Paramount’s Insurge and Ben Stiller’s Red Hour — asks host Michael Ian Black when the show will be on TV.

“It’s on the Internet,” said Black.

“That’s TV, right?” Marino asked, looking confused.