Yahoo blasts off with Rocket

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Yahoo is looking to launch new programming with Rocket Science Laboratories.

The Web behemoth has signed the unscripted-focused production company to a nonexclusive first-look deal. Rocket Science, best known for some of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s racier entries in the reality genre, including "Temptation Island" and "Joe Millionaire," exited an exclusive overall production deal with the network last year.

The enlisting of Rocket Science represents an increasingly rare connection being forged by Yahoo with a Hollywood entity. The company brought in former ABC Entertainment chief Lloyd Braun in 2004 to build up a presence for original programming on the portal, but even before Braun's ouster in late 2006, Yahoo had shifted its energies elsewhere.

Yahoo does have two other deals with production companies: Embassy Row, Michael Davies' shingle responsible for Yahoo daily series "The 9," and Gotham Group, an animation specialist that has projects in development but no active programming on the site.

Rocket Science continues to stay busy on the TV side, with "Bull Run" up next for Spike TV, as well as "If Women Ruled the World" for Fox.

Yahoo Originals GM Drew Buckley envisions Rocket Science helping in its renewed emphasis on establishing distinct verticals including entertainment, music and television. The plan was put in motion under Vince Broady, head of games, entertainment and youth at Yahoo, to whom Buckley reports.

"Our goal is to see how we're going to keep consumers for a longer period of time, and extend engagement," Buckley said. "Video programming is a piece of that."

For Rocket Science, Yahoo represents a continuing expansion of its business. The company linked with U.K. outfit Alchemy Television this year to push Rocket Science programming overseas.

"When that deal expired with Fox, we looked at it as an opportunity to look at new ways to leverage development activities," said Mike Wood, director of business development at Rocket Science. "We very much want to work with Yahoo to find a way to translate the Rocket Science strength in storytelling to find new programming for the Web."

Neither Yahoo nor Rocket Science would disclose any current projects being developed, but the emphasis likely will be on shortform video that offers a degree of interactivity. They also are examining the possibility of migrating whatever content the deal yields back to the television platform.

"For agents in the new-media space, you often end up being outside business development consultants for clients," said Michael Kernan, the ICM agent who packaged the deal. "Here, we are not just making television on the Web. We intend to bring an experience that takes advantage of what the Web has to offer."
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