Yahoo Moves Into Original, Scripted Video With Tom Hanks 'Electric City'

Yahoo Tries Expensive Foray Into Content in Bid for Advertiser Attention

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Is Yahoo about content or is it about tech? The question is almost as old as Yahoo itself. Last week, incoming CEO and former PayPal exec Scott Thompson said the answer is both.

Tom Hanks
Tom Hanks Credit: ZADE ROSENTHAL

He wasn't kidding. This spring, Yahoo will be the exclusive home to a new, scripted, animated web series starring, and created by , Tom Hanks and produced by Playtone and Reliance Entertainment. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, "Electric City" will consist of 20 episodes and will run 90 minutes in total. It is Yahoo's first original, scripted series, the company said. Mr. Hanks and Yahoo exec VP-Americas Ross Levinsohn will be at the Consumer Electronics Show tomorrow in Las Vegas to talk about the partnership.

Yahoo often likes to say that it is the home of nine out of 10 of the most-watched web video series. But none of those are scripted, so they are considerably less expensive investments. The Tom Hanks deal looks a lot like a traditional studio content deal, meaning Yahoo buys exclusive rights to distribute for a period of time, an expensive proposition, especially given the talent involved, but also likely to draw a lot of advertiser attention.

Yahoo's idea of original content has traditionally been to build low-cost media around existing events like Sundance, the royal wedding or the Super Bowl, where content costs are low or non-existent. So, "Electric City" signaling a new type of "tentpole" event for Yahoo?

In an interview with the Associated Press, Erin McPherson, Yahoo's head of original programming, said that Yahoo would indeed likely be the home to more original, scripted content going forward.

"There are a number of other opportunities we're looking at, and I think we're uniquely poised to build these sort of tent-pole event programs," Ms. McPherson told the AP. "I would expect that you'll see us doing more of it."

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