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NewFronts 2015: Yahoo Taps Simon Cowell for Live Competition Series

Yahoo unveiled a fresh slate of original programming at its NewFronts presentation Monday, including a live electronic-music competition series with “The X Factor” impresario Simon Cowell on board as executive producer.

“Ultimate DJ,” which was created by Cowell’s production banner, Syco Entertainment, is one of multiple projects Yahoo is funneling through its Yahoo Live section, which was first announced with partner LiveNation at last year’s NewFronts.

“Electronic music is one of the most important genres around the world and we want to respect what’s happening around the world,” said Cowell from the stage at Manhattan’s Lincoln Center.

Citing strong traffic from the lineup of music concerts Yahoo Live has pumped out, an expansion of the concept will encompass more than just concerts. In a concept similar to Cowell’s “American Idol” and “X Factor,” “Ultimate DJ” pits some of the world’s most promising electronic music DJs against one another in pursuit of a Sony Music recording contract and headlining spot at a major music festival. Live voting will be supplied by another Yahoo property, Tumblr.

In addition to “Ultimate DJ,” Yahoo will also take the live concept to news in the form of two daily newscasts. One will feature Yahoo global news anchor Katie Couric and another a team of business journalists from Yahoo Finance.

“These live conversations, which will also live on demand, will give people a better handle on the stories coming to them fast and furiously in bits and pieces,” said Couric on the Lincoln Center stage.”

Yahoo Live will also build on the momentum from its core concert series with more of same, including a new partnership with the Electric Daisy Carnival festival and four other major music festivals.

In addition, Yahoo is launching “Superfan Live,” a series of aftershows that will capitalize on the popularity of hit TV series.

Yahoo also announced that it will continue to add to its growing slate of scripted original series with “The Pursuit,” which was described as a “21st century take on ‘Friends.'” “Pursuit” is from executive producers Scott Stuber (“Ted”), Dylan Clark (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes“) and director and executive producer Beth McCarthy Miller (“Modern Family”). Chris Bruno and David Lee are the writers/creators.

“Pursuit” joins a roster that already includes a trio of comedies that have all launched on Yahoo within the past few months, including “Community,” which relocated from NBC for its sixth season; “Sin City Saints”; and “Other Space.”

Kathy Savitt, CMO and head of media at Yahoo, stopped short of announcing how the series are performing. “While it’s still super early, the shows are creating quite a stir, with nearly 7 billion social and media impressions,” she noted.

A third leg of Yahoo’s content strategy is its digital magazines, where the company will look to add to its collection of unscripted video content. Yahoo announced 14 new titles including projects with Michelle Rodriguez and Naomi Campbell.


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