Yahoo's Utzschneider on the potential of cross-platform advertising

Lisa Utzschneider, Yahoo

Utzschneider (Source: Yahoo)

with Lisa Utzschneider, Senior Vice President, Sales, Americas

Yahoo Screen is in an interesting place this year. Its direct competitor on the content front, AOL, was swept up by Verizon in a $4.4 billion transaction just a week ago that was most likely driven by AOL's programmatic ad technology. That leaves Yahoo as one of the few independent players of its scale offering both original, ad-supported content and premium/programmatic advertising, in addition to its legacy search business.

FierceOnlineVideo Editor Samantha Bookman interfaced with Lisa Utzschneider, Yahoo SVP of Sales, Americas, about Yahoo Screen's original content strategy and its cross-platform advertising initiative. Utzschneider, a veteran of Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) who built Amazon's advertising unit to a near-$1 billion business, joined Yahoo in 2014. The following Q&A is excerpted from an e-mail interview with Utzschneider and edited for clarity and brevity.

FierceOnlineVideo: Traditional players--broadcasters, distributors, cable companies – are increasing their online offerings. Do these offerings present a threat to Yahoo Screen?

Utzschneider: Video consumption today has changed dramatically; it's now interactive, cross screen, on-demand and programmed by the user. We want to entertain all audiences through our video content, and that's why we've brought Yahoo Screen to mobile users through our iOS and Android apps, and connected TV viewers via Apple TV, Roku, Tivo and more. We're meeting viewers where they want to watch.

FierceOnlineVideo: Unlike some OTT providers whose original content is documentary or reality, Yahoo Screen is offering scripted content. Do you feel this gives Yahoo an edge?

Utzschneider: While we're offering scripted, original, long form content, we're also continuing to create short-form series tied to our digital magazines as well as live music, news, finance and entertainment programming. We're focused on delivering high-quality programming that is entertaining and relevant for our users, and being a guide to those engaged audiences for our content creators.

FierceOnlineVideo: Yahoo Screen recently premiered both a new season of Community and an original series, Sin City Saints. How has the viewer response been to these series?

Utzschneider: Original programming is a key part of our video strategy at Yahoo. This year, we've focused on three projects with amazing storytellers, including the sixth season of Community, Sin City Saints, and Other Space, which are all available on Yahoo Screen. We've seen strong engagement with the series on Yahoo and incredible excitement from fans on social media around our originals.

FierceOnlineVideo: What original series are on tap through the rest of 2015?

Utzschneider: People can view their favorite episodes of Sin City Saints and Other Space and season six of Community on Yahoo Screen throughout this year. Additionally, at our NewFront event, we announced 18 new series across our Live, Digital Magazines and Original video programming, including The Pursuit, which is a new series about what it means to be in your late 20s in 2015 in Manhattan. When we combine these new series with other recently launched programming, there will be 55 video series within Yahoo's digital video slate. Stay tuned for updates on when these new programs will debut on Yahoo.

FierceOnlineVideo: Let's turn to advertising. Yahoo Screen recently partnered with Kia on its Getaway Guide custom campaign, which has a strong cross-platform component (such as Tumblr sponsored posts). What drove the decision to build this type of campaign?

Utzschneider: Kia wanted to expand on its 'Perfect Getaway' campaign which features the Sorento in situations that outdoor enthusiasts can identify with. So, Kia partnered with Yahoo to create 'The Getaway Guide,' a six-episode video series on Yahoo Screen that's designed to inspire viewers through a variety of fun, spontaneous weekend getaways with the new Sorento. What's powerful about Kia's program is that, in addition to a compelling video series, the campaign brings together native ads across Yahoo properties, Sponsored Posts on Tumblr, Yahoo Splash Ads across our digital magazines, video ads and display ads to connect with an extensive audience. This creates unique opportunities for Kia to reach and engage consumers with an interest in an active lifestyle along with in-market CUV shoppers.

FierceOnlineVideo: Yahoo will feature native ads on its properties as part of this campaign. Does Yahoo have a way to specifically target its online audiences so the Kia ads reach the right demographic?

Utzschneider: Yes, this campaign includes native ads across Tumblr and numerous other Yahoo properties which can be targeted to engage specific audiences. Through native ads, Kia can connect with an even wider audience and share content from 'The Getaway Guide' series.

FierceOnlineVideo: Linear OTT services, like those provided by Sling TV and Sony PlayStation Vue, are relatively new. Is Yahoo planning a similar linear offering?

Utzschneider: We're continuing to focus on our slate of Live, Digital Magazine and Original programming, which is available for free through the Yahoo Screen App for iOS and Android, on connected devices, including Apple TV, Roku, XBox, Tivo and online at

FierceOnlineVideo: 4K is a topic of frequent discussion around IP video delivery. Is Yahoo Screen testing 4K delivery or does it have plans for 4K content?

Utzschneider: We put our users first, and in addition to bringing them the best and most relevant content in the places where they consume, we'll continue to enhance the experience of our product.

Yahoo's Utzschneider on the potential of cross-platform advertising