Yahoo! Jumps Into Videoconference Market

In a move apparently timed to capitalize on a slowdown in business travel, Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) unveiled a service Thursday that will provide corporations with Internet broadcasting capabilities.

Yahoo! Broadcast Services are designed to replace face-to-face meetings for business conferences, sales meetings and trade shows.

The conference services will allow “companies to continue vital communications that were centered around large scale meetings, and maintain critical and focused outreach to customers, sales forces and business partners,” said Yahoo! senior vice president James Fanella.

Fanella noted that business travel has been severely curtailed in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks on the U.S., in which four hijacked planes were crashed in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

Many apparently expect the travel woes to continue, as stocks in the videoconferencing industry were among those to see gains when the stock markets re-opened following the attacks.

Rapid Deployment

Sunnyvale, California-based Yahoo! said its services can be deployed rapidly and offer a low-cost alternative to travel and meeting planning.

The offerings will initially include the “virtual conference,” which offers the ability to make presentations and interact with distant audiences. For example, audiences will be able to submit questions and respond to polls during the meetings.

The second service, the “executive communication center,” is being promoted as a way to quickly communicate with far-flung audiences, such as employees or shareholders.

Yahoo! said it will have employees on call 24 hours a day, enabling them to receive and prepare video transmissions for re-broadcast within four hours.

Adjusting Focus

Yahoo!, which slipped from profitability to fiscal losses as the market for online advertising slumped, has been relentlessly expanding its reach in an effort to decrease its dependence on advertising.

This month, the portal unveiled an e-book sales site that will be run in conjunction with several leading publishing houses.

Yahoo! has also announced it will host the Web site of soccer’s World Cup, and that it is also going to create and host a Web site for Sony (NYSE: SNE) under a sweeping deal with the entertainment and electronics company.

Many of Yahoo’s efforts have been aimed at the corporate market and seek to leverage the Internet media company’s expertise in Web hosting, design and technical issues.

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