MediaFile

Advertising weak? Quit worrying so much already

Viacom Inc’s not sweating it, Time Warner Inc. isn’t all that concerned. Why, CBS Corp and Discovery Communications Inc. are cool as cucumbers. Disney certainly sounds confident, as does Scripps Networks Interactive.

So why are investors and analysts — those Nervous Nellies of the financial world — so worried about the advertising market? Besides, you know, the fact that the stock market is getting smacked around, the job picture is just ridiculous, and the U.S. housing market is a wreck. Besides Europe’s debt crisis, which seems to have no resolution in sight. Besides the memories of 2009, when U.S. advertising spending dropped by 16 percent to $163 billion.

It may simply be that advertisers haven’t yet made the decision the cut budgets. But listening to all the top media executives at the Goldman Sachs Communicopia Conference this week left one with the impression that they are feeling pretty upbeat about advertising — and don’t expect any cuts in the near future.

Today, the final day of the conference, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman described ad sales as “strong” and predicted they would be up by just under 10 percent this quarter. Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes was a bit more restrained, but still said ad sales are holding up and actually “pretty strong” at its cable networks.

And it wasn’t just them. Check it out.

    CBS CEO Les Moonves: “I know the world wants us to say, ‘Gee, the economy is down and our advertising is down.’ That’s just not the case. The advertising climate is very strong.” Walt Disney CFO Jay Rasulo: “The advertising space, I would say that what we’ve seen is consistent with what you heard in the conferences last week and what you’ve heard from people earlier this week. On the national level, still directionally pretty strong; locally, a little weaker.” Discovery CEO David Zaslav:  “The advertising market remains very strong, and it’s been strong now for a year and a half. We haven’t seen any slowdown. We’ve seen it continue around the world. Now there clearly is a disconnect between what the economy is doing and what we are seeing on the advertising side, but we have not seen any slowdown. “ Scripps Networks CFO Joe NeCastro:  “If anything, people are looking around wondering why we’re really so nervous and that they get suspicious but nobody has changed their behavior in any meaningful way.”

Truth be told, New York Times CEO Janet Robinson was about the only wet blanket. Amid all the fun, Robinson had the nerve to warn that advertising revenue would drop by a larger-than-expected 8 percent this quarter, hurt by a pullback in real estate, help wanted and national auto ads.  (To be fair Bewkes also warned of print ads being “a little softer”).

Sun Valley: More Who’s Who in Pictures

Nearly every powerful media and technology executive you can imagine has swung through the idyllic and affluent ski resort town of Sun Valley this week. Here are a few more snapshots from Reuters photographer Rick Wilking…

Michael Dell, CEO of Dell Inc, arrives at the Sun Valley Inn

Harvey Weinstein, of the Weinstein Co arrives at the Sun Valley Inn

Les Moonves, CEO of CBS Corp arrives

Cleveland Cavaliers basketball star LeBron James talks on a phone outside the Sun Valley Inn

Eric Schmidt CEO of Google, Bill Gates former CEO of Microsoft and Nathan Myhrvold of Intellectual Ventures in Sun Valley

Sun Valley: The stars align

Allen & Co’s 27th Sun Valley media and technology conference starts on July 7 and ends on July 12. In the meantime, expect media writers to breathlessly report, blog, tweet, photograph and record the event. Why the fuss? There are literally hundreds of people coming who are known to do nothing else than run the universe when it comes to TV shows, movies, telecoms, the Internet and all sorts of other electronic communications. We have lists of all the people who bankroll them as well, along with a list of other interesting people you will find there.

Here, meanwhile, are the big men and women of media and technology who justify the travel budgets that increasingly hard-up news organizations have to put out for your favorite folks in the press corps to hide behind the hedges and hope for a handout that will break news, move markets and excite our editors. Keep in mind: this list is not a guarantee that these people are showing up; it’s just an invitation list (arranged alphabetically by company). We’ll update it as we learn more. (Our boldface names indicate some general viewpoint that they’re the stars of the stars.)

    James McCann, CEO, 1-800-flowers.com. Bobby Kotick, CEO, Activision Blizzard Inc. Also Brian Kelly, co-chairman. Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon.com Inc. Tim Armstrong, chairman and CEO, AOL Michael Ovitz, AMSEF LLC, former uber-talent agent at Creative Artists Agency and former Walt Disney Co executive. Gerhard Zeiler, CEO, RTL Group, Bertelsmann AG. Bill and Melinda Gates, of the foundation of the same name. Bill, of course, co-founded Microsoft Corp. Mark Vadon, executive chairman, Blue Nile Inc. James Dolan, president, CEO, Cablevision Systems Corp. Leslie Moonves, president, CEO, CBS Corp. Also Neil Ashe, president, CBS Interactive. Also Quincy Smith, CEO, CBS Interactive. (And a former Allen & Co man.) Charlie Rose, interviewer and anchor on the Charlie Rose Show Anthony Bloom, Cineworld plc Richard Parsons, chairman, Citigroup Inc. Former CEO, Time Warner Inc. Lowry Mays, chairman, Clear Channel Communications Inc. Ralph Roberts, founder, chairman emeritus, Comcast Corp. Also Stephen Burke, president and COO, Comcast Cable. Patrick Condo, president, CEO, Convera Corp. Jimmy Hayes, CEO, Cox Enterprises Inc. Richard Lovett, president, Creative Artists Agency Inc. Also Bryan Lourd, managing partner. Michael Dell, chairman and CEO, Dell Inc. Richard Rosenblatt, chairman and CEO, Demand Media. He used to work at MySpace’s parent company before News Corp bought it. Chase Carey, former DirecTV CEO and Rupert Murdoch’s new No. 2 man at News Corp. John Hendricks, founder and chairman, Discovery Communications. Also president and CEO David Zaslav. Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO, DreamWorks Animation SKG. John Donahoe, president and CEO, eBay Inc. Dara Khosrowshahi, president and CEO, Expedia Inc. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. (We’ve heard conflicting reports about whether he’ll show. Either way, he’s still on our list.) Tom Freston, principal, Firefly3 LLC. Former Viacom executive. Martin Varsavsky, CEO, FON Jeff Immelt, chairman and CEO, General Electric Co. Jeff Zucker, CEO, NBC Universal. (GE) Ronald Meyer, president and COO, Universal Studios. (GE) Eric Schmidt, chairman and CEO, Google. Also co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page. Juan Luis Cebrian, CEO, Grupo Prisa. Also Ignacio Polanco, chairman. Emilio Azcarraga, chairman and president, Grupo Televisa. Also Alfonso de Angoitia, executive vp. Christopher Schroeder, CEO, HealthCentral. Also former CEO of Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive. Cathleen Black, president, Hearst Magazines. R. Todd Bradley, executive vp, personal systems group, Hewlett-Packard Co. Also CEO Mark Hurd. Barry Diller, chairman, CEO, IAC/InterActiveCorp. Also chairman, Expedia Inc. Also Victor Kaufman, vice chairman, IAC/InterActiveCorp. Lachlan Murdoch, executive chairman, Illyria Pty Ltd. Son of News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch. Craig Barrett, former CEO, chairman, Intel Corp. Also Sean Maloney, executive vp, chief sales and marketing officer. Jeffrey Berg, chairman and CEO, International Creative Management. Also president Christopher Silbermann. Michael Volpi, formerly of Cisco Systems Inc and Joost. Eric Eisner, L+E Pictures. Son of former Walt Disney Co. CEO Michael Eisner. Kevin Reilly, CEO, Lamar Advertising Co. Michael Fries, president and CEO, Liberty Global Inc. John Malone, chairman, Liberty Media Corp. Also Greg Maffei, president and CEO. Reid Hoffman, chairman, president of products, LinkedIn Corp. Sam Altman, co-founder and CEO, Loopt Inc. Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer, advanced strategies and policy, Microsoft Corp. Also Robbie Bach, president of the entertainment and devices division, and Henry Vigil, senior vp, strategy and partnership. Rupert Murdoch, CEO, News Corp. Also with him is his second son, James Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corp’s Europe and Asia operations. Also Jonathan Miller, News Corp’s chairman and CEO for its digital media group. Former president and COO Peter Chernin, whose last day was June 30, is coming along too, in tow with CFO David DeVoe and new MySpace CEO Owen Van Natta. Gina Bianchini, CEO, Ning Inc. Jorma Ollila, chairman, Nokia Corp. Greg Wyler, founder, O3B Networks Ltd. Jeffrey Jordan, president and CEO, OpenTable Inc. Jeffery Boyd, president and CEO, priceline.com Inc. Maurice Levy, chairman and CEO, Publicis Groupe. Paul Jacobs, chairman and CEO, Qualcomm Inc. Robert Johnson, founder and chairman, the RLJ Companies. Jay Y. Lee, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. Kenneth Lowe, chairman, president and CEO. Scripps Networks Interactive. Mel Karmazin, CEO, Sirius XM Radio Inc. Max Levchin, CEO, Slide Inc. Sir Howard Stringer, chairman and CEO, Sony Corp. Also Kazuo Hirai, president of networked products and services group; Robert Wiesenthal, executive vp and CFO, Sony Corporation of America; Michael Lynton, chairman and CEO, Sony Pictures Entertainment; Hiroshi Yoshioka, executive deputy president, president of consumer products and devices group; and Nicole Seligman, top lawyer. Nick Grouf, CEO, Spot Runner Inc. Thomas Glocer, CEO, Thomson Reuters Corp, along with Niall FitzGerald, deputy chairman. Michael Eisner, the Tornante Company LLC. Former Walt Disney Co CEO. Lars Buttler, CEO, Trion World Network Inc. Evan Williams, co-founder and chairman, Twitter Inc. David Levin, CEO, United Business Media plc. James Berkus, chairman, United Talent Agency. Brad Grey, chairman and CEO, Paramount Pictures Corp (Viacom). Sumner Redstone, chairman, Viacom. Also Philippe Dauman, president and CEO. Jean-Bernard Levy, CEO, Vivendi. Robert Iger, president and CEO, Walt Disney Co. Also Thomas Staggs, CFO. Edgar Bronfman Jr, chairman and CEO, Warner Music Group. Donald Graham, chairman, CEO, The Washington Post Co. Casey Wasserman, chairman and CEO, Wasserman Media Group LLC. Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman, The Weinstein Co. Shelby Bonnie, CEO, Whiskey Media LLC. Jim Wiatt, William Morris Endeavor. Terry Semel, chairman and CEO, Windsor Media. Former Yahoo CEO. Martin Sorrell, CEO, WPP. Anne Mulcahy, chairman, Xerox Corp. Jerry Yang, chief Yahoo. Mark Pincus, founder, CEO, Zynga Inc.

Yahoo planning more job cuts

Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz is planning a new round of job cuts according to the reports as the company continues to cope with the aftermath of a downturn in online advertsing sales.

The New York Times and Reuters, citing several people with knowledge of the plans, said the layoffs could affect several hundred employees and may be announced as early as Tuesday when Yahoo reports its first-quarter earnings.

The cuts would be the first since Bartz joined the company as CEO in January.

Yahoo, which spent most of 2008 in a series of off-on merger/partnership talks with Microsoft, has already had two rounds of job cuts in the last year or so. It let go 1,000 staffers in early 2008 and cut another 1,400 at the end of last year.

Les Moonves: No price cuts here!

CBS’s stock may be in the tank (now under $4 a share),  but Chief Executive Les Moonves is still pretty darn optimistic. That may be because his network — home to the “CSI” franchise, “Survivor,” and “The Mentalist” — is the only one of the big four that’s been pulling in more prime-time viewers. For months it has been crushing ABC, NBC, and Fox in the ratings game.

What’s the payoff? CBS won’t have to make wholesale changes to its 2009-10 schedule and should be able to hang on to more advertising dollars than its rivals,  Moonves told an audience at the Deutsche bank Deutsche Bank Annual Media & Telecommunications Conference.

Moonves figures CBS will need to shoot six fewer pilots than it did a year ago, and bring only 2 or 3 new shows to air next season. He also says that with known hits — like “The Mentalist” — and few question marks about its schedule the network should fare well in this spring’s upfront market.

More see pressure building on CBS dividend

CBS has made a big deal about its dividend. Just three months ago, Chief Executive Les Moonves made clear his commitment to the quarterly payout to shareholders, who, by the way, have seen the stock fall nearly 75 percent in the last 12 months. Yep, 75 percent.

“The dividend is front and center in our strategy to return value to our shareholders” Moonves said on a late October conference call.

Lately, though, doubts about CBS’s ability to keep up the dividend appear to be spreading (to be fair, a number on Wall Street have questioned the payouts for quite some time).  First, on Monday, Sanford Bernstein  analyst Michael Nathanson cut his rating to “underperform” and warned that CBS might have to “drastically” reduce the dividend.