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Yahoo Scales Back NewFronts Event With Smaller, Less Flashy Affair

Yahoo is cutting back on the NewFronts razzle-dazzle this year, after the company pulled the plug on long-form original series and has been refocusing its media strategy.

On May 4, 2016, Yahoo will host a private Digital Content NewFronts event at its New York sales office for brand and agency partners. The Internet company is one of the founding partners of the NewFronts, the online-video biz’s version of the TV upfronts that is managed by the Internet Advertising Bureau, and has previously staged large, party-atmosphere events to present its slate of video content to marketers.

“We believe it’s important to provide our advertisers with less flash and more substance this year,” Lisa Utzschneider, Yahoo’s chief revenue officer, said in a statement.

Yahoo will present its short-form and live video programming to Madison Avenue partners, in a “smaller and more intimate” setting, according to Utzschneider. A Yahoo rep would not say whether CEO Marissa Mayer or head of content Martha Nelson will be in attendance. The company is not inviting media to the event.

Last year, Yahoo staged its NewFronts at Manhattan’s Lincoln Center, where Simon Cowell unveiled a live DJ reality-competition series — which was subsequently canceled. Yahoo also took a $42 million write-down on original entertainment series, including the revival of “Community,” and later shut down its Yahoo Screen video division.

In another content retrenchment, Yahoo last month folded several digital magazines. That came as part of its initiative to slash headcount worldwide by 15% in 2016 and concentrate media efforts around four key segments (news, sports, finance and lifestyle).

Yahoo’s NewFronts event this year “will reinforce our commitment to programming top-quality video experiences across our News, Sports, Finance and Lifestyle properties — four verticals where we see tremendous opportunity,” Utzschneider said.

Yahoo still hosts a variety of video across its properties, including live NHL games in a pact that runs through the league’s 2016-17 regular season. The company still employs Katie Couric, the one-time TV news star who posts regular video interviews and features in her capacity as Yahoo News global anchor.

Separately, Yahoo is in talks to sell itself with parties interested in the company reported to include Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and Microsoft. At the same time, the company is facing a fight for control of its board after activist investor Starboard Value nominated a rival slate of directors for Yahoo’s shareholders meeting in June. Amid all the uncertainty, Mayer is hoping to hold on to her job.

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