Let's just say that Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) is getting hungry as it waits to be eaten.

The Internet giant is paying roughly $160 million to buy Maven Networks, a Web syndication video platform used by companies like CNET (Nasdaq: CNET), 4Kids (NYSE: KDE), Scripps (NYSE: SSP), and Gannett's (NYSE: GCI) USA TODAY.

Yahoo! hopes to enhance Maven's already prominent role in landing premium partners and advertisers by incorporating its own display advertising strengths.

In short, Yahoo! is obviously not standing still as it waits for Mr. Softy's response. Yahoo! has been an aggressive buyer, snapping up BlueLithium, Right Media, and Zimbra over the past year.

One can't blame Yahoo! for sniffing out opportunities, especially considering how organic growth has failed it in recent years. Yahoo! needs to continue to operate as a standalone company. If anything, spending its greenbacks on purchases will be one way to shoo Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) away.

Microsoft is counting on Yahoo!'s cash-blessed balance sheet to help bankroll part of the cash portion of its offer. Yahoo! has been spending that money recently, with its cash and short-term investments going from $2.6 billion to $2 billion over the past year.

Yahoo!'s buying spree won't sabotage Microsoft's advances entirely, but it's an important deterrent. It also gives Yahoo! the ammo to begin clawing its way back toward becoming a growth stock darling again.

Does Yahoo! need Maven? Of course not. Will it be an important tool in helping Yahoo! be more competitive in a rich-media Web world? You bet.

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