Sun Valley Day 1: As moguls roll in, let the shmooze-fest begin

July 11, 2012


Disney CEO Bob Iger arriving at Allen & Co conference, Sun Valley, Idaho

On the first day of the mogul fest, the parade of arrivals on the steps of the Sun Valley lodge did not disappoint. Disney CEO Bob Iger smiled for the cameras while later, Warren Buffett stayed in his car while someone checked in for him.

Some of the braver execs who approached the media were Discovery CEO David Zaslav who, for the second year in a row  talked up Oprah Winfrey’s struggling OWN network and said Oprah herself would be landing in Idaho soon to attend the event organized by investment bank Allen &  Co.

“OWN”s looking great really showing a lot of growth, growth in day time, growth in prime time. Oprah is coming. She’s going to be here,” said Zaslav to the journalist scrum. “The network is making a ton of progress.”

He added that on a couple of Sunday nights, when Oprah appears on it, it becomes the No. 1 or 2 network for women in the U.S.

Of course, OWN is finally growing albeit from a fairly low point after disappointing for the first year and a bit. And as the pressure has ratcheted up to meet ratings targets it has strayed somewhat from its Oprah-esque uplifting message into more traditional reality and celebrity TV fare. Interviews with Whitney Houston’s daughter and Kim Kardashian and Kanye West have become staples in a bid to boost its numbers.

On the tech side, Jack Dorsey, Twitter co-founder and now the CEO of payments system Square told reporters he was working on taking Square beyond the United States.  “We just keep building,” Dorsey said.

Dorsey, 35, who is already one of the most respected technology entrepreneurs of his generation said he’ll be giving a  talk on innovation during the conference.

One of the biggest issues for the last few years is how traditional media companies, who have dominated this 30-year event in the past will work closer with the technology companies whose progress threatens to usurp and disrupt the media business. The focus is now on how the TV and movie business will handle the transition.

Blake Krikorian, co-founder of the Slingbox and Amazon board member said media companies would be more receptive to working with tech companies for online video, unlike in past years.

“The media industry is coming out of this hibernation period of the last couple of years and networks and content owners are looking to play offense now,” he said.

He added that the challenge will be figuring out what apps will appeal to consumers using this content, which, in past years would have been “wasted breath” since media companies were too busy trying to figure out a business model for their content on the Internet.

Reuters photo: Disney CEO Bob Iger arriving at Allen & Co conference, Sun Valley, Idaho

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