Reports are circulating that Yahoo is looking to launch a video site that would go up against Google's behemoth YouTube.
The rumors largely stem from a Re/Code report late last week that cited anonymous sources saying Yahoo is looking to not only launch a YouTube competitor in the next few months but also is trying to pluck some of the video-sharing site's stars and favorite networks.
A Yahoo spokeswoman declined to comment on the report.
However, Yahoo, and its CEO Marissa Mayer, have been trying to gain some traction in the online world, pulling the company back to the top where it started years ago. Yahoo was once an Internet pioneer but the years, and competitors like Google and Facebook, pushed the company back into the shadows.
Mayer, who was a top executive at Google before coming to Yahoo, wants to turn that slide around. Grabbing some of the audience from YouTube would be a huge step in making that happen.
"If Yahoo wants to be at the center of people's entertainment, they need a video service," said Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy. "YouTube is a free-for-all video service from cat videos to trailers to real content. Yahoo has a chance to provide less, but better content."
Earlier this month, Mayer, speaking at the annual 4As conference, said she is focusing the company's time and money on search, mail, mobile, social media and video.
There have been earlier signs that Yahoo wants to step up its presence in video. Last May, reports circulated that Yahoo was in talks to acquire Hulu, a video site known for streaming TV shows and movies, for as much as $800 million. The purchase never came through as Hulu's owners canceled plans to sell the company.
In December, Yahoo bought Ptch, a startup company that developed a mobile app that enables users to combine photos and video on their phones into movies.
Moorhead said Yahoo would be smart to position itself to launch a video site, but it needs to offer users something that YouTube doesn't.
Yahoo already has a video-sharing website, Yahoo Screen, which was formerly known as Yahoo Video. The site started out as a way to search for videos but was turned into a video-sharing site in 2006.
However, in 2011, the company stopped letting users upload their videos to the site and halted users access to previously uploaded videos.
The company didn't shutter the site, but it now only contains content from Yahoo and its partners. There is no more user-generated content.
In 2011, Yahoo Video was the third-largest video site in the U.S, behind YouTube, which is the most popular, and Facebook, according to comScore, an Internet tracking company.
"Yahoo failed at video before, but that doesn't mean it would fail again, said Moorhead. "Yahoo needs to bring something demonstrably different to the table than what YouTube has. If they don't, they will fail. YouTube already has all the cat videos, so that wouldn't be a differentiator. What would be different would be some very unique, first-run content."
If Yahoo could come up with a first-run, hit show like Netflix did with House of Cards, then they would have something that would draw users into the site... and away from YouTube, he said.
Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is [email protected].
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