MediaFile

from Summit Notebook:

A Barry Diller sampler from the Reuters Global Media Summit

Interviewing IAC chief and media mogul Barry Diller nearly always means that you'll get more quotable quotes than you can stuff into one article. He didn't disappoint at this year's Reuters Global Media Summit on Wednesday. Here are thoughts from Diller on a range of subjects from mergers and acquisitions and Comcast to AOL, MGM and marriage.

Q: What are you going to do with the cash on the balance sheet? What's the focus? Are you still being cautious?

A: "I'd say we still are. It's definitely a looming problem. The only thing worse than spending cash stupidly is essentially not to put it down at all, not to do anything."

Q: What would be the right opportunity to buy something?

A: "There's no road map here. Anything of size, let's call it $1 billion plus, is known. ... Of the potential availables, nothing seems smart right now."

Q: What about AOL?

A: "Steve Case came to me ... and offered us AOL. In 1992 or 1993, Paul Allen was selling his stake, which was about 25 percent of the company. We were very fresh into buying QVC and overly cautious and missed the opportunity; opportunity since then I'm kind of glad I missed."

from Summit Notebook:

What will the media company of the 21st Century look like?

In the run-up to the annual Reuters Media Summit, taking place in New York and London next week, we have been asking experts and executives how they think media companies should reinvent themselves for the 21st Century.

Will the big need to get bigger? See Comcast's bid for a controlling stake in NBC Universal.

Or will it be a question of being slimmer and more focused? Like Time Warner,  which is now essentially a pure content company after spinning off Time Warner Cable in March and AOL next week.

Time Warner Cable ready to fight high program costs

Time Warner Cable, the normally placid No.2 U.S. cable operator, is getting ready for a fight with its programming partners at the cable networks and broadcasters over rising affiliate fees. In truth, TWC has always been ready for a fight with the programmers. This time, it wants to make the first move and get its 14 million subscribers behind it.

The New York cable operator is launching an ad campaign “on behalf of its customers” to target what it sees as unfair price demands by programmers. It argues that these price demands, which usually come around this time of year at the end of programming contracts, can sometimes be as much as 300 percent increases. TWC says programmers make the demands “secure in the knowledge that video distributors are the ones who have to pass those costs along to customers and take the blame.”

So what’s Time Warner Cable going to do about it? They’re going to launch a website — yes, a website with the catchy URL: www.rolloverorgettough.com. News Corp, Sinclair Broadcasting and cable networks must be quaking in their collective fee-hiking boots.

from DealZone:

DirecTV adds to media merger excitement

With media titans GE and Vivendi still negotiating a deal to bring cable operator Comcast into a mega-media joint venture, a management move at DirecTV is giving dealwatchers a fresh programming alternative.

Yinka Adegoke and Sinead Carew report the appointment of PepsiCo veteran Michael White (pictured below), who has no experience in pay TV, as DirecTV CEO is being read as a sign the company's parent, Liberty Media, just wants a baby-sitter until its sells the operation in the next couple of years.

Telecom leaders Verizon and AT&T approached Liberty earlier this year, they report. Both have cross-marketing deals with DirecTV and would leapfrog the rest of the market with the addition of DirecTV's subscriber base. But fears of insurmountable regulatory resistance put those talks on ice.

Media, tech moguls meet in New York (You are NOT invited)

Media and technology executives are meeting Wednesday and Thursday in New York City at a conference hosted by private equity firm Quadrangle. Note the word private.

When they meet at the Plaza, they will talk about a ton of different things that their customers, their investors and other readers want to know. I have to apologize for them because they’re not letting in any riff-raff. And that includes reporters who get paid to spend all day figuring out how these people decide what kind of entertainment you want, what kind of technology you pay them for and what deals they pursue with the money that you give them when you buy their stock. This event always excludes press, but that’s no reason not to highlight what you probably are missing because of this. After all, who wants to wait for the 8-K filing?

Some press will be allowed, but it will be an assortment of celebrity journalists who will moderate panels and, according to Peter Kafka, author of “MediaMemo” at News Corp’s AllThingsD blog, will not write about the event (I’m talking about Maria Bartiromo and David Faber of CNBC, The New Yorker’s Ken Auletta, etc).

Comcast’s Brian Roberts at Web 2.0 (video)

Comcast Chief Executive Brian Roberts took time out from strategizing over his company’s reported bid to buy NBC Universal to speak at the Web 2.0 Conference in San Francisco on Tuesday. As expected, Roberts declined to comment on any ”specific” deals including NBC. But he did indicate as he has done in the past that content will be an important part of his company’s future and that it is always “prudent” to take a look at opportunities as they come up.

While he remained on message (or is that off message?), Jeff Immelt, his counterpart at NBC Universal’s parent General Electric, was a little more forthcoming, saying the company is considering its options for NBC Universal which could include keeping it.

In this 43 minute interview, Roberts also talked on a range of other topics including the importance of building faster Internet services and gave a demostration of his company’s On Demand Online service which he said will be launching nationally before the end of the year.

Media merger mania? Viacom’s Dauman doesn’t see it either

Just about everyone who covers media is talking about whether a potential Comcast-GE deal for NBC Universal will kick off a round of consolidation in media.******One executive — one very smart executive — who doesn’t think we’re in for a tidal wave of mergers is Viacom’s Philippe Dauman. (Word is Dauman earned a perfect score on the SAT — at the age of 13). After a speech at Executives’ Club of Chicago on Tuesday, we asked Dauman about consolidation.******”As far as we’re concerned, we ‘re focused on growing our brands, growing our business. We have tremendous brands with a lot of room for growth both in the U.S. and internationally. It’s a big opportunity for us.******”We’ve been involved involved in a lot of consolidation in our corporate history. The record of success in media consolidation has not been all that great for the most part so for ourselves we think the better strategy is to grow organically.”******But what does Dauman think about about the rest of the industry? To that question, he noted that “all of us in the traditional media business have seen the pitfalls” of big mergers, but Comcast may decide to chase a deal because of its unique circumstances. He didn’t elaborate, but we all know that Comcast has longed for more content for quite some time. The structure of the deal reportedly under consideration may work in Comcast’s favor since it doesn’t have to issue any equity.******Dauman isn’t the only smart guy in the media industry of course. Time Warner chief Jeff Bewkes made similar though slightly more cutting comments about the prospect of the Comcast-NBC deal last week and about what it said about success of previous big media mergers.******Dauman was more diplomatic.******”There’s a unique set of circumstances here that won’t necessarily in and of itself trigger a wave of other activity,” Dauman said.

Time Warner’s Bewkes: ‘No no, after you Brian’

If you’ve ever listened to Time Warner chief executive Jeffrey Bewkes speak, you’ll be used to his breezy, languid style. But he sounded even more so than usual on Friday at a conference in Washington D.C.  when asked about the big media story of the year so far: Comcast’s bid to take control of NBC Universal.

Comcast’s bid, led by CEO Brian Roberts, is exactly the opposite of what Bewkes has been doing at Time Warner, where rather than buying he’s spun off the cable assets and hopes to do the same with AOL by the end of this year.  So Bewkes couldn’t resist a little jab at his rival and sometimes partner:

“I don’t want to say anything that would discourage Brian from continuing in this pursuit that he has,” Bewkes said to laughter from the audience.

NBC, News Corp practice Olympic hedging

Big media executives are developing a new Olympic sport — hedging. Two of the best contenders are NBC-Universal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker and News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch.

Attendees at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia conference in New York City asked both executives on Tuesday if they were interested in bidding for rights to broadcast the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2016 Summer Olympics. Both answered the question in ways that sound different until you realize that they actually sound… the same.

Murdoch said “We haven’t thought about it” and concluded with “I wouldn’t think so.” Zucker said, “We’ll have to see what happens. We’re not going to make any decision that doesn’t make business sense. …. The Olympics are an important part of the company and something we’d would like to be involved with if it makes business sense.”

Time to determine how the media biz is faring

Media companies report their quarterly results during the next few weeks, time that should help us determine the state of advertising. Has it stabilized? Is it growing? Or is spending still trending down?

Google, which kicked off earings yesterday, probably isn’t a great bellwether. After all, it was held up better than almost any other media company during the recession. Still, the largest U.S. Internet search engine hasn’t been completely immune. Revenue was up in the second quarter, but only by 3 percent.

Google executives told analysts and investors on a conference call that they believed their business had begun to stabilize, but were unwilling to predict when a broader economic recovery would prevail.