Yahoo Launching Brand Universes

If, as a consumer, you’ve ever felt that the world’s largest companies are perhaps a little over-eager to point a red-hot iron at your posterior, you’ll be happy to know Internet titan Yahoo is getting ready to help them out even more by launching Brand Universes, portals within the Yahoo network of sites which bring together content, media, and features from across Yahoo’s service offerings into one centralized, themed, and—dare we say?—branded hubs.

So far Yahoo has launched its Wii Brand Universe, and the company has at least six more Brand Universes in the works, including one based on the Harry Potter and Transformers franchises, universes based on the television shows Lost and The Office, as well as universes based on the video game properties Halo and The Sims. By the end of 2007, Yahoo anticipates it may have as many as 100 Brand Universes online.

In an interesting move, Yahoo is apparently not asking anyone’s permission to set up the universes: it is not working with brand owners on marketing strategies nor asking permission or executing licenses to use the brands. As a result, brand owners might see Yahoo’s portals as a competitive move designed to steal thunder from their own promotional and market-building efforts. Further, Yahoo plans to integrate advertising into its brand universes, which may generate even more tension from brand owners seeing Yahoo’s efforts as a way to monetize their property.

In addition to offering themed presentations and media content, the brand portals primarily integrate social media hooks and content from other Yahoo sites and franchises, including brand-tagged images from photo-sharing site Flickr, user-generated bookmarks and links from Del.icio.us, as well as news, reviews, blog postings, and user forums pulled from other Yahoo offerings.

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