Yahoo Pulls Plug on New Sitcom, Slates Simon Cowell Show for 2016 (Exclusive)

Yahoo officially has axed plans to produce “The Pursuit,” from exec producer Scott Stuber, a sitcom about young Manhattanites billed as modern-day spin on “Friends.”

Meanwhile, Yahoo still has a live electronic-music competition show from executive producer Simon Cowell in the works, with premiere date target of early next year.

Yahoo’s drop of “Pursuit” is part of a dramatic reversal on its original TV-style series strategy. Last week, the company disclosed a $42 million write-down related to three comedies: the sixth season of Dan Harmon’s “Community”; “Sin City Saints,” about a fictional Vegas pro basketball team; and sci-fi spoof “Other Space” from Paul Feig.

“We couldn’t see a way to make money over time” on the three shows, CFO Ken Goldman said on the Oct. 20 earnings call.

A Yahoo rep confirmed that “The Pursuit,” announced this spring as part of the company’s NewFronts presentation to advertisers, is no longer in the works.

CEO Marissa Mayer, facing continuing declines in its search and display advertising businesses, clearly decided to cut Yahoo’s losses on the foray into relatively pricey long-form entertainment after less than two years. Yahoo didn’t invest much marketing “Community” and the other two shows, which were intended to be monetized over a seven-year span. Fashioning the company’s brand into a destination for premium TV content would have taken several more years and substantially higher investment in additional programming if it was going to reach significant scale in order for it to work.

With Yahoo passing on “The Pursuit,” others studios may be ready to swoop in to pick up the project. A rep for Stuber declined to comment.

“The Pursuit” is from exec producers Scott Stuber (“Ted,” “Role Models”) and Dylan Clark (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” “The Heat”) and director and exec producer Beth McCarthy Miller (“Saturday Night Live,” “Modern Family”). The millennial-focused show centers on a group of friends in the era of social media, chasing after love, money, happiness — “or maybe some, all, or none of the above,” per a description provided by Yahoo in its NewFronts pitch.

The Cowell-backed project, which Yahoo also unveiled at its NewFronts, is called “Ultimate DJ.” The live show will pit up-and-coming electronic dance music DJs against each other as they vie for a Sony Music recording contract. “Ultimate DJ” tentatively pegged to debut in the spring of 2016, according to a rep for Cowell’s Syco Entertainment.

Yahoo is continuing to invest in short-form original content, as well as other live programming, such as through its Live Nation pact. This Sunday, Yahoo live-streamed the first-ever NFL game for free to a global audience, though it delivered a far smaller audience than comparable U.S. TV broadcasts.

Yahoo’s video-entertainment strategy was led by Kathy Savitt, who last month joined STX Entertainment. Yahoo has since put former Time Inc. editorial exec Martha Nelson in charge of its overall content strategy including video.

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