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Is Yahoo a media company, or a technology company? It's a question the company has long struggled with.

If you look at the recent appointment of former PayPal president Scott Thompson as CEO, you might suspect that Yahoo is aiming to be a technology company once again.

After all, Thompson was once PayPal's CTO, a VP of technology solutions at a Visa subsidiary and a CIO at Barclays.

But the fact that Thompson is a technologist doesn't mean that Yahoo is ditching its Hollywood connection, cemented during Terry Semel's reign, either. In fact, it's upping the ante with a deal that will see it distributing exclusively a new animated sci-fi series.

The Hollywood Reporter has the details:

The show, called Electric City, is a production of Reliance Entertainment and Playtone, the latter being a TV and film company owned by Hanks and Gary Goetzman.
 
Hanks will voice the lead character in Electric City and Yahoo will roll out about 20 episodes, each one roughly four minutes long, beginning in the spring.

The series is Yahoo's first foray into the world of a scripted shows, and it apparently has big hopes. Yahoo EVP Ross Levinsohn hinted that Yahoo was investing a substantial amount, and believes that Electric City could become a "franchise", raising the possibility of a movie or television show, as well as a branded video game.

While there's no doubt that content is important to Yahoo, its deal raises more questions than it answers, particularly in light of the company's new CEO appointment.

One has to wonder if partnering on an original scripted series, and hoping that it could turn into a media "franchise", represents more of the same from a company that hasn't been able to figure out what it wants to be.

Obviously, Yahoo's ability to serve as a large-scale distribution platform for content isn't disputed, and it should look to leverage its still-massive audience.

At the same time, it would seem that if Yahoo is ever going to regain some of its past glory, it will need to deliver more innovation on the technology side, not an animated series.

Patricio Robles

Published 10 January, 2012 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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