Yahoo came first, but Google has YouTube.

And, rumor has it, Yahoo has a hankering for its own version of YouTube, or at least something like it. So much so that the struggling Sunnyvale, Calif.-based early internet mammoth is allegedly “cherry-picking” viral YouTube stars away from the world’s most popular video service -- particularly ones who aren’t satisfied with the notoriously skimpy payouts they reportedly receive. 

According to Re/code, Yahoo “hopes to launch” a strategy “in the next few months” to compete with arch rival Google’s video cash cow. (Maybe they’ll call their attempt YahToobe? Nah, it just doesn’t roll off the tongue right, does it?)

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal yesterday reported that Yahoo is in talks to acquire Atlanta-based online video syndication company News Distribution Network (NDN) for approximately $300 to $400 million, adding yet more fuel to rumors swirling around Yahoo’s fight for a bigger slice of the ad-supported online video pie.

Related: Your Customers Are Likely More Engaged on YouTube Than on Facebook or Twitter

We asked a Yahoo spokesperson if both of the rumors are true -- Yahoo’s alleged YouTube star poaching and a the alleged NDN deal -- to which she simply responded both times, “We don’t comment on rumors or speculation.”

It’s no shocker that Yahoo president and CEO Marissa Mayer is reportedly eyeing snagging traffic from YouTube. What doesn’t add up is that Google’s aggressive Employee No. 20 didn’t gun for the holy grail of online video earlier. YouTube is the second most visited website on the internet, second only to Google, of course, and it rakes in more than 1 billion unique users every month.

A growing thirst for network content
Walter Mossberg’s new indie tech news site, which is a CNBC partner, also reported Yahoo has also recently been in touch with “some of the big networks now on the giant online video service.”

Yahoo apparently has quite an appetite for major broadcast network content. Last year the company inked a deal with Broadway Video to exclusively stream the complete 38-year Saturday Night Live catalogue. The catalogue is available through Yahoo's fledgling video-sharing offering Yahoo Screen, though it's not nearly as lucrative as expected.

Related: Young Millionaire: Inside the Mind of Yahoo's Teen Sensation Nick D'Aloisio

Also almost a year ago, Mayer attempted to land a $300 million majority stake in French video-sharing site DailyMotion, often dubbed “the YouTube of France.” It was a no-go. The French government squashed the deal. Yahoo also tried and failed to scoop up Hulu for $800 million.

But Mayer doesn’t take well to defeat and she’s apparently not throwing in the towel in the battle for online video viewers and, more importantly, ad revenue, not without a fight. Not if the new face of Yahoo, veteran TV anchor Katie Couric can help it.    

More money and better exposure = A tough carrot not to bite
Re/code revealed that Yahoo is allegedly enticing big-draw YouTube-ers by dangling sweeter “economics” and better brand exposure as bait:

“The come-on? Yahoo executives have told video makers and owners that the company can offer them better economics than they’re getting on YouTube, either by improving the ad revenue or by offering guaranteed ad rates for their videos.

In addition, Yahoo has offered extensive marketing, even on its home page, as well as allowing video producers the ability to sell advertising along with Yahoo’s sales force.”
 

If the rumors about Facebook and Amazon possibly stepping up efforts in the ad-supported online video game are more than just rumors, Yahoo might be biting off a bigger battle than it can chew. Still, as Re/code’s headline hinted, the unflappable and always perfectly coiffed Mayer still looks ready for her closeup. 

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