ABC News' Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric flank ABC News President Ben… (Richard Drew, Associated…)
ABC News and Yahoo Inc. are deepening their already cozy relationship in the hopes of creating a digital news juggernaut.
Under the new agreement, ABC will become the premier news provider to Yahoo and produce original content, including an online version of "Good Morning America" specifically for the venture.
"We think we can revolutionize the online digital news landscape," Yahoo Executive Vice President Ross Levinsohn declared at a glitzy news conference at ABC's "Good Morning America" studio in New York. ABC News President Ben Sherwood added, "It is a game-changing day for us."
"Good Morning America" anchor George Stephanopoulos kicked off the new deal Monday with an interview with President Obama that streamed live on both Yahoo's and ABC News' websites.
ABC, owned by Walt Disney Co., and Yahoo have been partners for more than a decade — the network's content has a regular presence on the Web portal. For ABC, having greater prominence on Yahoo will bolster its visibility on the Web, where it currently trails CNN, MSNBC and Fox News.
Yahoo's news pages got more than 81 million unique visits in August, according to ComScore, while ABC News had 24.5 million.
Increasing the visibility of ABC News could give Yahoo added credibility, which the site hopes would translate into greater advertising dollars.
"We are wholly focused on really accelerating the notion of premium content and premium advertisers," Levinsohn said.
ABC's Sherwood, who last December started chatting with Yahoo's Levinsohn over bagels in Brentwood about expanding the relationship between the two companies, said Yahoo and ABC News journalists would co-produce content and share bureaus in New York, Los Angeles and Washington.
Bernard Gershon, a media consultant who struck the previous deals with Yahoo when he was running the ABC News digital operation, said the new deal was not as groundbreaking as the two parties made it seem.
"This is far from game changing, this is adding an extra inning," Gershon said. He said one difference with this pact is the seeming willingness of ABC News on-air talent to take a more active role in producing content for the Web.
As was the case in the previous agreement, the two sides will continue to share advertising revenue and responsibilities for selling commercial inventory.
Unlike under the previous contract, Yahoo will no longer have to license content from ABC News, which it used to do at a price of about $2.5 million a year, said a media executive who didn't want to be named because he was not authorized to speak about the contract.
One news veteran warned that both will need a bigger presence on social networks such as Facebook for this alliance to have a major effect.
"This thing only works if Yahoo cracks the social code," said former CNN President Jon Klein, who now heads @Media, a digital consulting firm. "If you are ABC News, you want to make sure you are getting your content in front of all those Facebook and Twitter users."