Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) is spinning a shift in its access deal with Canada’s Rogers Communications as an expanded strategic relationship but UBS analyst Ben Schachter has the right perspective: it’s a revenue shift away from fees and towards potentially lucrative but possibly riskier advertising. Rogers is swapping its broadband services deal for an ad rev split effective Jan. 1, 2008. Yahoo is forgoing per-subscriber portal fees in exchange for a one-time payment of about $52 million, lower high-speed data costs and an extension through 2011. The expansion offers a win on the mobile side — Rogers is adding Yahoo Go for Mobile 2.0 and Yahoo oneSearch.
From Schachter’s note to clients following the announcement on Rogers’ earnings call: “We believe that Yahoo’s access business represents ~66 percent of its Fees business, or ~$575 million in ’07. While Rogers is only a small piece of this, the public renegotiation raises questions about the quality of the revs from all the partners (VZ, BT, (NYSE: BT) and most importantly, ATT). … The main negative is that the economics (or at least the known and therefore the perceived economics) of the access business is changing. However, YHOO would likely make the case that while they are no longer getting subscription revenue, they’ve locked in a key advertising partner through 2011. At the end of the day, we will not be surprised to see YHOO alter how they report the ‘Fees’ line. And while we obviously wish we had more detail on all the access partnerships, it is clear that in today’s market, it