Web video is hot. From the user-generated video content on YouTube to the professional video content on Hulu, everybody loves watching video online.

But achieving real success financially with online video has proven to be much more difficult than achieving popularity.

Finding a format that users love and that advertisers love has been on the minds of many internet and media execs for some time now. Yahoo thinks it may have found that format: niche, short-form shows that are designed not to compete with television.

The shows will resemble the company’s “Primetime in No Time” show, which recaps the most interesting TV happenings of the day in 2 to 5 minutes. It generates 400,000 on an average day and according to The New York Times, this makes it “one of the most popular recurring series made for the Web“. Verizon Wireless sponsors the show.

The first new show Yahoo is launching under the same format is “Spotlight to Nightlight“, which will cover celebrity mothers. Its sponsor, State Farm, was looking to reach a female audience and believes that the package Yahoo is providing will allow State Farm to “own the environment around the discussion“.

That’s important, since advertisers are looking for good value and measurable results in these tough times. If Yahoo can provide those things while providing video content that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to produce but is still attractive to viewers, it may have a winning formula.

Of course, there are no guarantees. There are a lot of intangibles when it comes to online video and as we’ve seen over the years, nobody has proven to have the ability to produce viral hit after viral hit. So it remains to be seen whether Yahoo will be able to take the format that has worked with “Primetime in No Time” and replicate its success over and over.

Nonetheless I think Yahoo is wise to recognize that it shouldn’t be competing with television and I suspect that more producers of online video will eventually come to the conclusion that their success may not lie in competing with television either.

Online video can, and will, define itself.