Yahoo to Wind Down Maven Video Publishing Service

[Update 12:30 a.m. 6/30/09: We’ve revised this story after speaking with a Yahoo official.]

A report Monday in TechCrunch asserting that Yahoo is killing off its Cambridge, MA-based video hosting company Maven Networks just 16 months after acquiring it for $160 million is inaccurate in some respects, but accurate in others, according to the company.

A spokesman at the troubled Internet portal company, reached by phone late Monday, confirmed—as TechCrunch reported—that the company plans to shut down the service introduced by Maven under which it publishes online videos for third parties such as Fox News. That decision is part of a reprioritization effort that “will allow us to focus our resources on the continued improvement of our core video offerings,” the company said in a statement that the spokesman shared with Xconomy by e-mail.

However, the technologies Yahoo acquired when it purchased Maven aren’t going away—in fact, they’re integral to the company’s new video player and its video ad server technology. And contrary to the TechCrunch report, the Maven division has not been singled out for mass layoffs. While members of Yahoo’s video divisions have been among those affected by several waves of staff reductions at Yahoo—including a recent 5 percent across-the-board layoff—talent from Maven continues to lead video initiatives across the company.

The TechCrunch report, citing unnamed tipsters, said that “Yahoo has effectively decided to shelve Maven, firing most of its employees in a move packaged as a restructuring.” Xconomy relayed that report—which now appears to have been unjustified—while attempting to contact Yahoo for confirmation and clarification.

While the report of mass layoffs may have been wrong, however, recent months have brought many signs of downsizing and attrition across Yahoo’s video operations, including Maven. Former CEO Hilmi Ozguc, who founded Maven in 2002, left Yahoo last September, six months after the acquisition. Internet video news site NewTeeVee reported in early May that “many members of the [Yahoo Video] team have quit or been laid off amidst a lack of strategic direction,” and reported later that month that the head of company’s video platform division was leaving. The site even asserted that Yahoo planned to phase out Maven altogether—not an outlandish prediction, given that other Yahoo video services Yahoo Live, a live video streaming service, and JumpCut, an online video editing tool, have already been shut down.

But while Yahoo has been scaling back its investment in some areas of online video, it says it has been increasing them in others. Video initiatives “remain a priority for Yahoo, both for its consumer and advertising experiences,” the company says.

The full statement we received from Yahoo is as follows:

Since acquiring Maven Networks in 2008, Maven has played an important role in our video strategy, providing essential talent and core technology that has helped Yahoo! to enhance its consumer and advertising offerings. Maven technology is used in the Yahoo video player, as well as in the Yahoo Video Advertising Platform that is being used to serve both on- and off- network advertising for Yahoo! partners.

While video initiatives remain a priority for Yahoo!, both for its consumer and advertising experiences, we are increasing investment in some areas while scaling back in others. After careful consideration, Yahoo! is planning to wind down its Maven Networks customer base. This decision will allow us to focus our resources on the continued improvement of our core video offerings, such as enhancing the consumer video experience on Yahoo!.

Since Q4 2008, we have closed or announced our intention to close, nearly twenty Yahoo! services– such as Yahoo! 360, GeoCities, My Web and Yahoo! Briefcase. We continue to evaluate our portfolio of products and services on a regular basis, and plan to share details of further changes with people who use our products in the months ahead.

Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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