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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Microsoft and Yahoo! Agree to Terms for New Search Agreement

Terms of Search Agreement Between Microsoft and Yahoo!

Yesterday Microsoft (MSFT Charts) and Yahoo! (YHOO) announced they reached an agreement for search advertising collaboration. Note that "search" includes Microsoft's AdCenter which is similar to Google's AdSense that I have on this blog and my web pages where I am compensated by Google when people click ads.

For this collaboration to be successful, Microsoft and Yahoo! will need to offer pay-per-click rates high enough to get content providers from The Wall Street Journal to bloggers like me to choose or switch to their platform. The only way they can do that is to increase scale to reduce overhead so they can pay a higher percentage per click.

Microsoft will now power Yahoo! search while YHOO will become the exclusive worldwide relationship sales force for both companies' premium search advertisers.

The key terms of the agreement are as follows:
• The term of the agreement is 10 years;
• Microsoft will acquire an exclusive 10 year license to Yahoo!’s core search technologies, and Microsoft will have the ability to integrate Yahoo! search technologies into its existing web search platforms;
• Microsoft’s Bing will be the exclusive algorithmic search and paid search platform for Yahoo! sites. Yahoo! will continue to use its technology and data in other areas of its business such as enhancing display advertising technology.
• Yahoo! will become the exclusive worldwide relationship sales force for both companies’ premium search advertisers. Self-serve advertising for both companies will be fulfilled by Microsoft’s AdCenter platform, and prices for all search ads will continue to be set by AdCenter’s automated auction process.
• Each company will maintain its own separate display advertising business and sales force.
• Yahoo! will innovate and “own” the user experience on Yahoo! properties, including the user experience for search, even though it will be powered by Microsoft technology.
• Microsoft will compensate Yahoo! through a revenue sharing agreement on traffic generated on Yahoo!’s network of both owned and operated (O&O) and affiliate sites.
• Microsoft will pay traffic acquisition costs (TAC) to Yahoo! at an initial rate of 88% of search revenue generated on Yahoo!’s O&O sites during the first 5 years of the agreement.
• Yahoo! will continue to syndicate its existing search affiliate partnerships.
• Microsoft will guarantee Yahoo!’s O&O revenue per search (RPS) in each country for the first 18 months following initial implementation in that country.
• At full implementation (expected to occur within 24 months following regulatory approval), Yahoo! estimates, based on current levels of revenue and current operating expenses, that this agreement will provide a benefit to annual GAAP operating income of approximately $500 million and capital expenditure savings of approximately $200 million. Yahoo! also estimates that this agreement will provide a benefit to annual operating cash flow of approximately $275 million.
• The agreement protects consumer privacy by limiting the data shared between the companies to the minimum necessary to operate and improve the combined search platform, and restricts the use of search data shared between the companies. The agreement maintains the industry-leading privacy practices that each company follows today.
In the Microsoft Press Release Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer said the agreement will provide Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, the scale necessary to more effectively compete, attracting more users and advertisers, which in turn will lead to more relevant ads and search results.

The agreement does not cover each company’s web properties and products, email, instant messaging, display advertising, or any other aspect of the companies’ businesses. In those areas, the companies will continue to compete vigorously.

The companies have established a website at to provide consumers, advertisers and publishers with additional information about the benefits of the agreement.

Disclaimer: I own GOOG and MSFT in my personal portfolio. I also cover GOOG and MSFT in "Kirk Lindstrom's Investment Letter." I may buy or sell all or some at any time without public announcement beforehand.

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