Watch My Yahoo
Lloyd Braun is flexing his Hollywood programming muscle to make the portal a must destination for web surfers.

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Lloyd Braun's arrival at Yahoo last November inspired lots of gossip. Why would Yahoo hire a TV programmer unless it planned to make video content? In an interview with FORTUNE, Braun explained that Yahoo will make video content, but only in tiny amounts. The company's not even thinking about making entire shows or building a full-scale news-gathering operation. It costs too much, Braun says; besides, videos in the conventional sense are not what users are asking for. "If we try to re-create TV on the Internet, we're going to fail. The last thing I want to do is watch a half-hour sitcom on my PC or phone. I wouldn't last ten minutes."

Instead, Braun aims to take what he calls "linear and static" web content and make it more personal and interactive. Yahoo Music is an example. The subscription service offers unlimited downloads from a catalog of one million songs for $60 a year; it connects to Yahoo's instant messaging so that you can see what your friends are listening to; and it keeps track of what you download so that, as Amazon does with music and books, it can suggest other music that might interest you. Braun hints that Yahoo will offer an analogous service for TV shows. Do you hate it when you miss an episode of a hot series? "I'm going to fix that issue for you," he says.

He does believe Yahoo must come up with new "must see" content. Rather than try to concoct that in-house, he is deep in talks with Hollywood about developing Yahoo-exclusive "shows." Expect them to be shorter than conventional TV fare. (Braun might not last ten minutes in front of his PC screen, but ask if he'd last five, and he grins.) He's also looking to buy exclusive content, as in a deal he and Semel cut last year to show never-before-seen footage from The Apprentice on Yahoo.

Yahoo News, meanwhile, is slated for a makeover. "Right now you can click on eight different links but end up reading the same story. That is not my definition of programming," says Braun. News also needs context to make it more valuable, he says. For example, when terrorists blew up three subway cars and a bus in London last month, Yahoo News viewers sucked up stories, video, and photographs of the disaster. Add similar details of the 2003 bombings in Madrid and perhaps a historical perspective on terrorism, and viewers might stay on the site longer. Says Braun: "We can put [news and information] in front of eyeballs at moments when they're going to want to click on it, and that's a very, very valuable thing for our partners."