Yahoo boosts content with adventure channel

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Lloyd Braun, the ambitious leader of Yahoo's media group, was widely quoted saying he wanted to give the Web its very own "I Love Lucy" moment. One of his first efforts, an adventure travel channel featuring original Yahoo-produced films, makes its debut today.

The first dispatch chronicles a group reaching the summit of the Eiger-a mountain in the Swiss Alps-led by John Harlan III who, at 9 years old, had watched his father fall to his death attempting the same feat. With adventure-travel leader Richard Bangs as host, each segment of "Richard Bangs' Adventures" includes video, still shots, articles, interactive elements, blogs and space for reader reaction. The second dispatch will center on the Sea Gypsies of the Andaman Islands who survived the tsunami, and the third will take a family who wins a Yahoo sweepstakes on a trip to Panama to search for pirate gold.

Casio, the channel's initial sponsor, has branded product placement in the films as well as video and still ads and a microsite.

Yahoo has grown its revenue to the size of the largest offline media companies. In 2004, its ad revenue totaled $2.25 billion-about the same as Walt Disney Co.'s. Top programming executives, such as Mr. Braun, formerly the head of ABC Entertainment Television Group, have made no secret of the fact that the portal plans to fashion itself the leader among media companies in the digital age.

To do so, Mr. Braun has promised Web-exclusive content on the level of a "signature event." In the last year, he staffed up a media unit complete with film and TV production pros outside of Hollywood in Santa Monica, Calif. The adventure channel at is the first major foray toward that goal. Yahoo's first stab at original programming showcases freelance war correspondent Kevin Sites, who files multimedia dispatches from war zones around the world. Ads on that area, "In the Hot Zone," are the typical run-of-site messages that run in Yahoo's news area.

`Hear the climbers' breath'

"In the travel series, we show what it's like to hang off the side of the Eiger from a rope," Scott Moore, VP-content operations, Yahoo media group said. "You can hear the climbers' breath as they summit. It's that dramatic storytelling ability we have [online] where users can go to different parts of the series and look at things that are most interesting to them." The climb was paid for by a movie company, MacGillivray Freeman Films, that simultaneously filmed an Imax documentary about the journey.

Casio is spending almost one-third of its estimated $4 million media budget on the camera division's holiday 2005 campaign, according to Sue Vander Schans, director-strategic communications and marketing, Casio. The effort introduces Casio's flagship thin, light EX-S500 camera, and the marketing is occurring only online. Casio's objective? "People know us for keyboards, watches or calculators," she explained. "We want to increase our exposure as a consumer-electronics company like Sony or Panasonic," she said.

Ms. Vander Schans became an interactive convert when the Yahoo-hosted citizen video awards Casio sponsored earlier this year resulted in a click-through rate of 20% and a spike in sales. "I would say it's comparable to TV if not better because it gives you an opportunity to hit viewers who are truly interested," she said. "I would say we are getting a lot more impressions than we would on TV."

The Casio brand placements are composed of Mr. Bangs using the Casio camera to shoot stills and video for Yahoo. The Casio brand then appears at the bottom of the content screen. Other media includes video and display ads throughout Yahoo, including a one-day home-page splash and a microsite on which viewers can learn more about the camera, buy it online, or find out where to buy it offline.

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