The decision by Time Warner's Turner cable network to partner with Yahoo for a multi-year ad sales and content deal for sports prompts one obvious question: Why would Turner choose Yahoo as its first sports partner when it already has another major portal, AOL, in the Time Warner portfolio? The answer is simple: scale.
Although AOL has the sixth-most-trafficked sports site, with an average monthly unique audience of 9.2 million visitors, according to ComScore, Yahoo Sports gets more than twice that, with 20.6 million. That's enough to make it the top-ranked sports site in monthly traffic, just ahead of ESPN.com, which averaged 20.4 million visitors in the last 12 months. So suddenly Turner, which will exclusively sell all advertising for Yahoo's National Basketball Association, golf and Nascar pages, has become one of the biggest players in online sports content.
David Levy, president of Turner Broadcasting Sales and Turner Sports, said the audience for Yahoo's NBA, Nascar and golf pages is roughly 80 per cent unduplicated once Turner's unique users are factored in. "What this really does is allows us to extend our reach to an even broader audience, and enables us to leverage our marketing messages by leveraging each of the companies' national audiences. So you're not only getting NBA.com, you're getting Yahoo NBA," he said.
Todd Teresi, senior VP of Yahoo's Publisher Channel, added in a statement, "This announcement builds on our strategy to be both the starting point for consumers seeking the premier sports content, and to be the choice for leading Internet publishers looking to maximize their revenue potential."
The Yahoo partnership is not exclusive, so there's still potential for a similar deal with AOL, or any other major portal, down the road. "We can do AOL with the right model and the right financial terms put into place," Mr. Levy said.
Turner has also recently formed its own vertical ad network, which pools 19 sites in the Turner stable, including CNN.com, CartoonNetwork.com and TNT.tv, making the Yahoo pact a horizontal and vertical sell for advertisers. Mr. Levy said he now has the ability to use Yahoo's database to create behavioral profiles and effectively target users. "So if a user conducts a search for golf clubs through Yahoo search and then goes to Yahoo Mail, we're able to run an ad for Callaway clubs, for example. If they come to any of these sites through the Yahoo portfolio and stay within Yahoo's domain, we can track them and their behavioral domain."
Aiming better at targets
Such behavioral characteristics have become more appealing to digital buyers, several of whom extolled the virtues of Yahoo's offerings in a recent Ad Age roundtable on ad networks. "Yahoo has a lot more personal information through its other services for which you registered. So they can cross-target with demographic information ... and because Google doesn't have similar information, Yahoo actually has better proprietary data at this point in time," said Augustine Fou, senior VP-digital strategy at MRM Worldwide, New York.
Added Chris Kilkes, interactive media manager at Godfrey Q & Partners, San Francisco, "We've seen that Yahoo's registration offering leads to much more engaged audiences versus what we have seen through, say, a Google gadget. That leads us to believe that combining registration data with behavioral is just narrowing the funnel a lot more efficiently for us."