The community didn’t kill the Yahoo display – Yahoo Did
Yahoo announced on Wednesday that its foray into original video content hadn’t worked, and the company said it would take a $42 million write-down for its video division.
“We thought about it a lot,” Yahoo CFO Ken Goldman told The Wrap, “What we concluded is [that] some of our original video content, we couldn’t see how to make money over time. I think Community, I think Sin City Saints and so on. So where we had spent money and had assets on our balance sheet, we chose to write them off.”
Harsh words, and those that seem to blame Community squarely for Yahoo’s failing Screens service. But is it really fair to blame the cult comedy for Yahoo’s failure to monetize the show?
(Also see: The new Community season starts on Tuesday and here’s why you need to watch it)
There’s no denying that this show was a true love letter to geeks. Shows like The Big Bang Theory claim to be about geeks, but passing references aside, they’re largely standard sitcoms. The community, on the other hand, has done an entire episode in the style of GI Joe, and it’s the Meow Meow Beenz episode that is a biting social media satire.
He devoted episodes to Dungeons and Dragons, and remarkably, instead of having people wear clichéd fancy costumes and generally behaving in a silly way (one thinks of The Big Bang Theory’s rendition of Age of Conan), it actually showed them sitting around a table, rolling dice, and filling tables with characters.
The community has had a troubled history – creator Dan Harmon was kicked out in season 3, nearly canceled after season 4, and although Harmon was brought back for season 5, the show was canceled by NBC after the fifth season. Over those five years, however, he had built up a dedicated fan base, and when Yahoo announced that it would be bringing the show to Yahoo Screen, the fandom rejoiced.
Now, however, Yahoo says it hasn’t been able to make enough money from the show. And the question you have to ask yourself is why not? For one thing, there’s a big difference between Netflix saving a show and Yahoo doing the same. Because unlike Netflix, Yahoo Screen was free and ad-powered.
And the one thing Yahoo apparently failed to do was market the show to advertisers. Although he was able to make Honda a presenting sponsor, which even included an episode built around the sale of a Honda car. Interestingly, the show was apparently a success for Honda, increasing brand recall by 95%, but not for Yahoo.
The community may have brought a lot of dedicated fans to Yahoo Screen – certainly enough to have a huge impact on Honda – but Yahoo couldn’t do anything with that audience. He hasn’t been able to get people to stick around and watch his other content, and he hasn’t been able to monetize it by capitalizing on ad space and time. Or Inspector Spacetime – imagine a series of little webclips that the show could have monetized more, based on Abed’s favorite character?
Yahoo didn’t reveal how many people watched Community – or how many people had even heard of Yahoo Screen before that. But earlier this year, he released the following statement: “With the Community Season 6 finale airing today, we are continually excited by the number of fans who are taking an interest in the series. Now that all episodes are available for binge-watching, stay tuned for how we keep Community delighting its fans.”
But Yahoo’s advertising was limited to Honda and Screen’s own shows. Marketing was very limited, and unless you were actively looking for Community, you were unlikely to come across it. The community provided a great spike, and Yahoo thoroughly researched how to handle it.
All in all, it doesn’t really look like Community killed off Yahoo Screen. No, it looks like Yahoo Screen has (finally, sadly) killed off Community.
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