Old Media Dudes On The Internet, 'It's About The Money'

The leaders of all the biggest media companies, along with Marc Andreessen, spoke today in Los Angeles about their content and the internet.

Les Moonves wrapped up their feelings about the whole thing saying, “It’s about the money. It’s about how do you get paid in this new world.”

How do you get paid? That’s not exactly certain, but Jeff Bewkes says “we ought to be able to figure this out in a profitable way.” He sees increased interest in the stuff his company is making. It’s up to him and his executives to make money off it.

Marc Andreessen brought up Zynga, which makes money by taking advantage of Facebook’s platform. Zynga’s FarmVille created a whole new business thanks to a new platform. These media executives should learn from that example and start seeing ways to make money from new platforms.

Below is our live transcript of Brian Roberts, Marc Andreessen, Jeffrey Bewkes, Leslie Moonves, and Tom Rothman speaking on a panel moderated by ex-FCC head Michael Powell.


Unless in quotations treat anything below as a paraphrase. Brackets note our thoughts.

12:19: Lady just asked people to take their seats.

12:25: Now they are showing some public service video…did you know cable cares?

12:28: Here’s Michael Powell


12:29: Here’s everyone else:


12:30: Michael starts with the iPad, I was watching 30 Rock on here a few minutes ago.

Brian Roberts: “It’s reality” you have to turn it into an opportunity. It will be “more friend than foe.”

12:31: Michael to Marc what are the key tech trends affecting video and these business?

Marc: proliferation of broadband, wifi are big. We build software assuming connectivity. Every gadget now has capability to do games communication video because of broadband, etc.


12:33: Michael to Tom Rothman, if you create content, do you think making of tv and films is different because of tools to make it and means to consume it?

Tom: “No.” Making stories hasn’t changed fundamentally. Content creators need to get paid, properly windowed and charged for. It’s the same if you watch Avatar on big screen or Family Guy on the phone.

But there is experience. Avatar is not made to be consumed on TV. We still believe in experience. Family Guy still hilarious on the phone. Avatar not so much.

tom rothman

12:37: Michael: Is there better way to optimise for mobile? Are kids more impatient?

Les: I think you’ll see everyone agree here, which is a “sea change.” I agree with Tom that content is everything. If you don’t have good content, I don’t care where you show it. We are a content company. Look at brave new world with great fear and great excitement. Dialogue has change, now there’s a mutual respect between tech and content. We welcome iPad, Marc Andreessen.

Back to Avatar — Watching it in 3D on you mobile phone…just not good.


12:40: Tom Rothman — People liked the story in Avatar and that’s why it succeeded. Yes there’s a lot of technology, but that’s not the most important thing.

I think there will be great stories for the cell phone. And there will be stories to tell and that will drive things.

12:41: Michael Powell: Asked my son why don’t you watch more TV? He says he wants interactive experience…Jeff what do you think?

Jeff: “First, let me agree with everyone” [LAUGHS! Among the execs anyway.] Listen to what Tom is saying, people want Avatar to unfold, they don’t want to interact. But, then look at American Idol, people want to interact. It depends on the medium, the package.

Now…let’s go with what’s practical. TV world a huge invention, these people in this room did it. Now it’s all over the planet. Seen networks that great creative opportunities and financial support for Lord of The Rings, Avatar and Harry Potter. If you think of risk taking branded cable channels are doing, before it was done people say no one is going to watch that.

It’s possible to put all shows on all screens and we want to do that at no extra cost. Jeff says get VOD robust, “make interfaces better” things you see on the web bring to the television. In the future whatever device will tune you to the show you want to watch…”but let us write the script.”


12:46: Michael aiming a Q at Brian Roberts about Internet and TV…but Bewkes intercepts and says:

Interface is easy and powerful on the Internet. People can share.

Tom chips in: The Internet is where your kids are and that’s where their friends are.

Brian gets he turn: “I disagree with everyone” [more mild chuckles]…We made a big bet to be the enabler. Give us credit. We’re going to 80K shows on demand from 10K.


Brain continues, I understand that big events all see big ratings jumps, right Les?

Les: Yes, because of interactivity. People can watch Grammys talk on Twitter and buy music, etc.

Tom: I don’t believe that it’s ultimately good for content creators/distributers for everything to be everywhere all at once. Yes its reality, fact of life, but all transitions have been managed by ‘windows’. I believe windowing — which is unpopular — but windowing is going to need strong defence, and I think it is vital.

Jeff: You’re talking movies. What about TV? If its on demand right away, that’s fine. The difference is film release — but I agree windowing is important.

We’ve helped consumers, we’ve developed a good distribution model, which is why we’re not the music industry.


12:54: Tom: I think we have the advantage of seeing what happened to the music industry. There will be tension between our models and ubiquity. “Because we got to get paid.”

Marc: I pay $4,000 a month for 100 mbs internet connection AT&T commercial scale.

Now he’s talking about Zynga and FarmVille. This is causing a seismic shift for EA. The lesson is that format changes are possible once you see new formats. We haven’t seen them yet.

Les to Marc: How do you find time to work? You’re very successful for all your leisure time…watching movies and playing games.

12:59: Michael’s Q: You all say you have to get paid, is that possible? No one wants to get “itune-ized” having prices go down. Can you find incremental revenue from games? Or virtual goods? Where does money come from?

Tom: Look, it better come from somwhere. Just look at DVD, that’s lost a lot of money since the peak of DVD sales. We are going to have to make up in transactions from revenue we lose from DVD transactions.

Les: We used to get one source of revenue, now we get 12. Retrans, DVD, online activity giving us some revenue. Take CSI $3 million per episode to make. I only get pennies online to dollars on the network. If audience shifts, I can’t make the show. That’s why we’re not on Hulu. Until the model works we won’t be.

We are in favour of authentication, people get stuff online and we get paid.

Jeff: Margin on VOD is better, and cost for view is lower, which is great if you think about DVD declining. People are spending more money and time on content. Hits are more successful than every before. Question not if people are excited by content. They are going to watch it. Will business model work?

We ought to be able to figure this out in a profitable way.

Tom: Yes, we see the increase of VOD in 2 years we hope to be where we where and digital will make up and pass DVD.

1:06: Brian: We appreciate the increase on day and date. We have all these home theatres and we’re delighted to see the increase in VOD.

Michael: What about new platforms getting your money?

Marc: Google, Facebook, Twitter now huge for people to gain traffic and traction. Big for socialisation. If your friend says I watched this show and puts up a link that clicks to Fox.com or CBS.com or whatever. These platforms push huge traffic to other sites.

Jeff: Yes, but we want to have the data about users. We want to know who these people are. That wasn’t true with Kindle. We think that changes.

1:10: Les: One thing that is essential is measurement so we can count viewer or an eyeball. I need to count on the web and on tv. Data is essential.

Brian: How do we tell viewer all the wonderful choices they have? they can go online and see stuff about CSI, and also do something. But along comes iPad, combined with work we do like Fancast — here’s research, data, and experience. Now here’s a cable box. How can we liberate from box? Let’s talk about watching on the device [we’re not sure where he’s going here…ok, there it is, a clip showing iPad interacting with cable, showing a clip.]


This is a pretty cool clip. You can control Tv with the iPad and you can learn about the shows you are watching. You can type with the nice keyboard.

Brian Roberts talking again…he really really really likes the iPad. Thinks it kills a laptop.

Cool part is changing the TV change, and this will work on every box. That’s cool. Helps you watch TV.

Marc: this reinforces my idea about new platform. Think about it: You can bring in your Facebook friends on that and talk to them during the show. Or you can tweet it out from there. new platforms new possibilities.

Brian: Pace of innovation is speeding up, so is competition. If people go to other providers, it’s not because we don’t have content. One of our problems is that it can be more fun on other platforms. So we have to get on “that bus” not on our own.

We would like to speed up our innovation, but that’s not easy. It’s not a question of whether people want to sign up, we just have to make it fun.

Les: Everyone here is working together and competing (save for Marc.)

Tom: We all want to protect the value chain. [Why do the News Corp dudes ALWAYS talk about protecting value of content?]

1:23: Jeff: There is always unanticipated in regulatory intervention. We’re trying to figure out fair universal broadband infrastructure. So, we want to see how broadband investment goes and what the government will do with that.

Les: Whenever they say it’s not about the money, it’s about the money. It’s about how do you get paid in this new world.

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