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Media Moguls Meet, Mumble, Merge, Metabolize

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Big media conference yesterday – the panel included

    News Corp. president Peter Chernin, Viacom chairman/CEO Sumner Redstone, Sony Pictures chairman/CEO Michael Lynton and Activision chairman/CEO Robert Kotick, on Wednesday at the Milken Institute 2004 Global Conference at the Beverly Hilton.

    Chernin defended the network TV business, saying that despite audience erosion, the medium remains strong and is still the only way for advertisers to reach a mass audience. He also called flatness in movie attendance a “nonissue” since a studio like Fox looks at overall revenue streams, including DVD, TV sales and video-on-demand, when assessing a film’s bottom-line performance.

    Redstone said current DVR penetration is still very small and that regardless of its ultimate effect, “we will adjust.” All the panelists agreed that there will be a continuing growth of product integration in response to the changing dynamics of audience viewing habits.

    Kotick took the opportunity to plug video games as an attractive platform for advertisers. Calling his business “DVR proof,” Kotick gave the example of a game based on skateboarder Tony Hawk in which the player has to drink a virtual Pepsi in order to get to the next game level.

    Asked whether content or distribution is king, all agreed that the top crown should go to content, though “the king may be a little bit stronger if he has his distribution troops to enforce it,” Chernin said.

    Lynton, who worked at Time Warner and Disney before joining Sony last year, cautioned that owning both content and distribution could sometimes prove a double-edged sword for a company. “You sometimes end up robbing Peter to pay Paul. … I’ve seen that happen,” he said. [Hollywood Reporter]

So, when speaking amongst themselves, the media poobahs acknowledge their Chicken Little claims of impending disaster – for which they demand legislative relief – are mostly crap. Refreshing, if disconcerting.

Meanwhile, Comcast has given up on obtaining Disney:

    Comcast Corp. on Wednesday withdrew its unsolicited $48.4 billion offer to buy Walt Disney Co. after the entertainment conglomerate steadfastly refused to open negotiations.

    ….”Unfortunately, it has become abundantly clear that Disney does not share our interests,” Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts said on a conference call. “I am very comfortable with our decision to withdraw even though it is not the outcome I had hoped for.”

    The decision handed a major victory to embattled Disney Chief Executive Michael Eisner, who still faces a revolt from shareholders contending he does not have a strategy to ensure long-term growth.

    A Disney spokesman did not immediately return calls seeking comment. The entertainment and media conglomerate’s board contended Comcast’s offer severely undervalued the company and on Tuesday after a meeting it reiterated its backing for Eisner and his strategy, which calls for Disney to stay independent.

    ….Roberts, considered one of the media industry’s savviest dealmakers, gave investors a possible hint about his intentions on a conference call on Wednesday, when he said he expected Comcast to take a serious look at Adelphia, the bankrupt cable company that recently announced it was seeking a buyer.

    “They have a number of systems that fit our footprint,” Roberts said. [Reuters]

If you do buy it, just keep my freaking cable modem running, please, lots of trouble with it lately.

Moguls come in all sizes and ages: Mary-Kate and Ashley are about to gain control of a cool $150 million each when they turn 18:

    Minimoguls virtually since birth, they have seen their Dualstar Entertainment Group grow into a multimillion-dollar venture with global reach.

    As they accept their star Thursday on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Olsen sisters are indeed at a crossroads. Only weeks away from turning 18, they are about to take full control of their multimedia empire while simultaneously rolling out their first major motion picture, the May 7 Warner Bros. Pictures release “New York Minute,” in which they star and share a producer credit.

    “Even though they’re still teenagers, they’ve been working in this business almost all of their lives, and their instincts, talent and perspective have been shaped by everything they’ve learned along the way,” Warners president of production Jeff Robinov says.

    That knowledge will be put to good use this summer when the duo assumes the role of co-presidents at Dualstar, which was launched in 1993 to create projects for the then-child actors to star in and produce.

    Thanks to the countless books, videos, CDs, TV shows and direct-to-video features — not to mention ancillary merchandising — distributed through Dualstar, the girls will each take control of an estimated $150 million on their 18th birthday, June 13.

    …. In 2003 alone, the mary-kateandashley brand earned more than $1 billion in revenue; overall, it is estimated to be worth $300 billion. The brand, for which Wal-Mart has a U.S. exclusive, includes more than 50 merchandise categories, including fashion and housewares. [Reuters]

And no, I am not related as far as I know.

And another mogul – it kills me that the public has embraced Donald Trump – is getting a new wife and a radio show:

    There’s a new member of Donald Trump’s “A-Team.” Following Ivana and Marla, model Melania Knauss became engaged this week to the billionaire developer

    …Trump gave the 33-year-old Slovenian native a diamond engagement ring on Monday. Knauss wore the ring to a party that night at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, although it went unnoticed by the hundreds of guests.

    Trump, 57, has lived with Knauss in his Trump Tower home for the past five years. No wedding date was set, and Trump – currently riding high with the success of his NBC reality show “The Apprentice” – had no comment on the latest twist in his sometimes tumultuous love life.

    His first two marriages ended in very public divorces: the first from wife Ivana after nearly 15 years, the second from Marla Maples after less than six years. [AP]

    Starting this fall, Clear Channel’s Premiere Radio Networks will syndicate him in a daily, morning drive-time vignette called Trumped. For 60 to 90 seconds, the mogul-turned-reality-TV-star will opine on whatever’s on his mind. On Fridays, after he has iced the latest candidate on Apprentice 2, he’ll explain why.

    “I like to state my views,” Trump said Wednesday in that understated way of his. Radio executives have been after him for years to do something like this, he said, but he never seriously considered it: “It was never high on my radar.”

    ….Clear Channel programming chief Sean Compton says Apprentice “humanizes” Trump and that listeners hang on his every word. He expects Trump’s segments will be picked up on stations in most markets across the country. Trump’s pieces will be made available to Clear Channel’s 1,200 stations and others in some markets. [USA Today]

I wish all the other radio pundits would only spew for 60-90 seconds a day.

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