(NASDAQ:YHOO) sprinted to the top of the online ratings for sports content in February, wresting the crown for most unique visitors from reigning champion ESPN.
Nicely done, although its glorious reign will be brief. The Winter Olympics games, presented by Yahoo Sports and NBC Sports in a digital alliance, drew 63.6 million unique visitors to the site, according to the ComScore ratings
for February. ESPN had been on top for the previous five months, and inevitably it will be there again when the March figures come out since ESPN had the NCAA Basketball Championships.
The Yahoo-NBC News alliance, in place since December 2012, was intended to increase Yahoo's broadcast presence. It certainly did that.
As Yahoo prepares to announce its quarterly results after the close on Tuesday, the question is which, if any, of its many ambitious efforts are actually paying off.
Since taking over Yahoo in July 2012, Marissa Mayer has goaded the company into innumerable content tweaks that are designed to contribute over time to more usage and therefore more advertising revenue. A redesigned weather page, a modernized email service, more and higher-quality video -- it all adds up.
But Mayer knows that gradual improvement doesn't cut any ice with investors -- not when a company has fallen as far behind as Yahoo had before Mayer ever got there. Yahoo had 5.8% of the digital advertising market in 2013, down from a 6.8% share in the previous year, according to figures from eMarketer. Five years ago, its share was twice that.
But Wall Street has a weakness for big, splashy marketing moves that lead to lots of publicity, and here Mayer has excelled, hiring former CBS News anchor Katie Couric as Yahoo News "global anchor." More recently, she hired Joe Zee, creative director of Elle
magazine, to head Yahoo Fashion, and Bobbie Brown, owner of a cosmetics company, to run Yahoo Beauty.
Now, there's word that Mayer wants Yahoo to get into the original entertainment-programming game. So does everybody else, though Netflix
(NASDAQ:NFLX) could tell her that for every breakout hit like House of Cards
, there are a dozen more like Hemlock Grove
and Roy Schneider: Soy Sauce and the Holocaust
, and Marc Maron: Thinky Pain
Meanwhile, the company also just announced an expansion of its partnership with music video streaming service Vevo. Videos, live concerts and other exclusive music programming will be showcased on Yahoo Screen.
For her first 18 months on the job, investors applauded Mayer's every move, pushing the stock's price up 160%. They may be more wary now. The stock has dropped 18% this year.
For all of Mayer's efforts, her company's two great strengths are still the investments that came before her time: big stakes in Chinese retail giant Alibaba and in Yahoo Japan.
For the quarter that just ended, Yahoo's estimated revenues are in the range of $1.06 to $1.10 billion, with EBITDA between $290 million and $330 million.
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