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Yahoo Announces 'Ultimate DJ' EDM Series, Renews 365-Day Concert Program

Nearly a year to the day it announced an ambitious 365-day live-stream concert series with Live Nation, Yahoo is doubling down on music content.

The company unveiled a new 2015-16 slate of digital programming at its NewFront presentation for advertisers on Monday (April 27) at New York’s Avery Fisher Hall, which included a live EDM series “Ultimate DJ,” an expansion of Yahoo’s ongoing partnership with iHeartMedia for live events and a renewal of the Live Nation deal that will include five festivals. EDM superstar Steve Aoki was on hand to announce “Ultimate DJ,” as well as man the decks for Yahoo’s NewFront after-party. In total, Yahoo announced 18 new series to a slate that now includes 55 original programs.

Since debuting July 15 with Dave Matthews Band on Yahoo Screen, the 365-day concert series has hosted arena headliners like Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga, Usher and John Legend, seasoned vets like Stone Temple Pilots, Todd Rundgren and Santana, and rising stars Meghan Trainor, Twin Shadow and Kodaline.

Yahoo declined to share specific view counts or audience figures, but Lisa Licht, the company’s senior vp, marketing partnerships, says 43 percent of the users who watch the Live Nation content are new to Yahoo, spending an average of 24 minutes watching live content, more than double the 11 minutes typically spent watching music programming on other channels. Initial sponsors for the Live Nation partnership included Kellogg, Citi and Sprint, who bought full-year packages estimated in the $5 to $7 million range, as previously reported by Billboard.

Such high engagement on Yahoo Screen should explain why the company is adding five Live Nation festivals to the lineup next year, as well as more music video premieres like the ones they introduced last year with Taylor Swift and Mark Ronson. “We’re having a lot of discussions with artists and their managers on how to launch new music in grander ways,” Licht says.

Elsewhere, Yahoo announced the forthcoming premiere of “Ultimate DJ,” a live EDM series produced by Syco Entertainment’s Simon Cowell and Kelly Belldegrun, Ultra Records president Patrick Moxey, and Done and Dusted’s Ian Stewart and Hamish Hamilton (director of the 2015 Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show and Academy Awards.) The project was originally developed by Syco for TV with former sponsor T-Mobile and former co-producer SFX Entertainment in 2014. “I have always been excited to be involved in a show where you have the chance to discover a star,” Cowell said in a statement, “And to do that, I know from experience you need great partners and the rest will follow.”

Yahoo chief marketing officer Kathy Savitt says "Ultimate DJ" will be “very much like the World Cup of EDM -- country against country, DJ against DJ, fanbase against fanbase. And with all the voting happening on Tumblr, it’s yet another example of the growing convergence and synergies we are finding between the two platforms.”

Other new Yahoo series announced Monday include digital magazine programs like Yahoo Style’s “I Am Naomi,” starring Naomi Campbell, Yahoo Autos’ “Riding Shotgun with Michelle Rodriguez,” Yahoo Live’s “Superfan Live,” Yahoo Finance’s “Everybody’s Business” and an original long-form comedy series “The Pursuit” from creators Scoot Stuber, Beth McCarthy Miller and Dylan Clark.

With first-quarter 2015 profits falling below investor expectations, investors will be keeping a close eye on Yahoo’s content strategy to pay more dividends this year. CEO Marissa Mayer said in an earnings call last Tuesday (April 21), “Yahoo is amidst a multi-year transformation to return an iconic company to greatness.”

And as more ad dollars become earmarked for music-related content in the NewFront and upfront advertising marketplace, ad buyers will be looking for more innovative ways to connect with consumers through digital video. “What the market needs is less streaming of content from events, and more innovation around how consumers can access or control the experience,” says Morgan Buksbaum, senior partner-vice president at Group M’s MediaCom ESP, who adds that he’s “excited to see how Yahoo’s music platform evolves and is optimized.”