Yahoo CEO touts Ben Silverman deal

Carol Bartz says he 'understands power' of site's audience

Ben Silverman was getting more love from Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz than he might be used to from more traditional Hollywood types lately.

Bartz, speaking during a conference call with analysts, touted a deal struck a few weeks ago with Electus, the studio Silverman runs under the umbrella of Barry Diller's IAC.

Silverman, the former co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios, "understands the power of Yahoo's audience," Bartz told Wall Street analysts on Tuesday.

She was light on details about what Silverman and Electus have been up to since partnering with Yahoo, but she promised that the online content they create would not mimic what's already on television.

Yahoo's earnings release on Tuesday said Electus "will produce original programming for Yahoo users while providing advertisers new opportunities to integrate their brand messages into the next generation of online programming."

Yahoo CFO Tim Morse said that display advertising for movies and other entertainment was down in the fourth quarter, but search advertising in that category was up.

"I don't know what to make of it," he said.

Yahoo said it earned $153 million overall in the fourth quarter, reversing a year-ago loss of $303 million, but revenue fell 4% to $1.7 billion.

Income from operations was $119 million, dented by $40 million in restructuring charges and $32 million in "advisory and retention costs" related to a search agreement struck with Microsoft, though that transaction has yet to close.

"I made it through my first year with the company," Bartz noted, adding that it was "very bumpy."

She said that no company -- including Yahoo -- has figured out yet how to make advertising online as relevant as the content, a formula she referred to as "the holy grail."

Bartz also said that at the midpoint of the current quarter, it appears that when Yahoo next reports its financial results it will show year-over-year growth for the first time in six quarters.

Wall Street seemed happy with the report. The stock rose 1% during the regular session to $15.99 then rose another 3% in after-hours trading.
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