‘Community’ Proves Yahoo Is Betting Big on Original Comedy Programming


Yesterday, when it was announced that Yahoo would be the streaming platform to revive Community for a sixth season, the news was predictably met with a mixture of joy from its fans and eye-rolling from its detractors. What everyone did agree on was that Yahoo was a laughable outlet to resurrect Community. Twitter immediately went for the “Outdated Platform Revives Classic TV Show” joke format. It is an odd choice — why not Hulu, Netflix, or even Amazon Video? — but Yahoo has actually been working on increasing its original programming output, so perhaps this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

A few years ago, Yahoo created Yahoo Video as a video-sharing site much like YouTube. Users could upload, share, and search for videos. In 2010, Yahoo Video was rebranded as Yahoo Screen. User content was soon removed, and Yahoo Screen relaunched in late 2011 with original programs. Its most — perhaps its only — notable program is Burning Love, the reality dating show spoof produced by Ben Stiller. The spot-on parody even got a syndication deal with E! network.

Last fall, Yahoo Screen also added a few web series, such as The Fuzz , a police show send-up starring mostly puppets, and Tiny Commando , about a great crime fighter who happens to be four inches tall. Yahoo Screen’s focus was on short, silly comedy — the kind you would find on Funny or Die — that could be quickly digested and wouldn’t take up much of your time or brain power.

But in April, Yahoo announced that Yahoo Screen was planning on adding original, longer shows to its slate. Instead of web videos, Yahoo Screen set its sights on comedy series that would compete with the original programming being offered by Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video. The two new comedies that will launch this endeavor are Other Space and Sin City Saints.

Other Space is set in the 22nd century and follows a spaceship crew of misfits who have to find their way home after ending up in an alternate universe. Not only does the premise sound great, but it’s created by cult comedy favorite Paul Feig, best known for Freaks and Geeks and Bridesmaids. This shows that Yahoo Screen, despite the constant jokes about its parent company being out of touch, is actually aware of the sort of comedy us kids are watching! In context with Other Space, it makes a certain amount of sense for Community to exist here.

The other comedy is Sin City Saints, from Mike Tollin (Smallville, All That) and Bryan Gordon (who has directed everything from Party Down to Childrens Hospital to Curb Your Enthusiasm). Sin City Saints is another offbeat comedy, this one following a Silicon Valley tycoon who buys a pro basketball team. Both Other Space and Sin City Saints are eight-episode, half-hour series whose seasons will be released all at once.

It may have been expected for Community to land elsewhere on the Internet, but its revival by Yahoo Screen isn’t too strange — especially considering that Yahoo owns Tumblr, a platform full of the most vocal and adoring fans of Community; you can basically watch entire episodes in GIF form on your Tumblr dashboard. Yahoo chief marketing officer Kathy Savitt even touched upon Community‘s digital noise in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter: “This is a fan base that has used digital channels to show their passion and advocacy for a program that’s really important to them on so many levels. We’ve been looking at it for a while.”

Yahoo is looking for a comeback, and its executives know that online television is the way to appeal to viewers. Its two original comedies, which don’t premiere until 2015, are a good start, but Yahoo Screen needs something much bigger on its side if it wants to enter the streaming video competition. Community is exactly it.