The media business is so chaotic that a smart move today becomes the monkey on a CEOs’ back tomorrow—look at MySpace! Peter Lauria rates 10 CEOs navigating these choppy waters.
Stock Price: $34.57
Smart Digital Moves: Buying Pixar, which gave Disney access to the smartest mind in technology, Steve Jobs; naming Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg to the board; building out ESPN's digital capabilities; getting into casual gaming via Club Penguin and Playdom; naming Playdom's John Pleasants and Yahoo's James Pitaro to lead interactive unit
Not-So-Smart Digital Moves: Mobile ESPN; Disney's Interactive unit lost $65 million last quarter
Stock Price: $31.45
Smart Digital Moves: Leading the charge on TV Everywhere, a service designed to provide digital access to cable shows once users are authenticated as subscribers to a cable service provider; merging CNN Money with Fortune.com and Money.com; creating strong websites around the sports rights owned by TBS
Not-So-Smart Digital Move: Signing off on the $850 million acquisition of Bebo, which was a colossal failure
Verdict: Somewhat Savvy
Stock Price: $15.68
Smart Digital Moves: Buying MySpace on the cheap, which has allowed the company to make money from the deal; keeping WSJ.com as a paid website; BSkyB's Sky Player, which is an Internet-based on-demand movie player
Not-So-Smart Digital Moves: Letting MySpace devolve from the social-networking leader into a struggling also-ran; buying IGN, a collection of entertainment-based website that hasn't gotten any traction; putting the London Times behind a paywall; high digital executive turnover
Verdict: Somewhat Savvy
Stock Price: $37.29
Smart Digital Moves: Striking a $1 billion deal that gives Netflix the exclusive online rights to movies from the Epix pay-tv channel; buying Harmonix, maker of video game franchise Rock Band; building Comedy Central into a web powerhouse
Not-So-Smart Digital Moves: Suing YouTube, which has cost Viacom hundreds of millions of dollars; MTV's now shuttered Urge; missing out on MySpace, which would have been a better fit with Viacom than it is with News Corp. (though, with hindsight being 20/20, some might say Viacom was smart not to buy MySpace).
Verdict: Not very savvy
Stock Price: $17.51
Smart Digital Moves: Streaming NCAA tournament games online; moving the outdoor billboard business, which is the ultimate analogue business, to digital; staying away from exclusive distribution deals to keep CBS' content ubiquitous; buying CNET, which gave the company a platform and desperately needed scale
Not-So-Smart Digital Move: Way overpaying for CNET; failing to build out Last.fm, which is a good fit for its radio station business, in any meaningful way
Verdict: Somewhat Savvy, if only because Moonves has the worst set of assets to makeover digitally
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