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Milken Institute Global Conference Highlights Through the Eyes of Todd Harrison


Lessons learned from America's left coast.

  • Richard Beckman, CEO e5 global media: print media monetization is key, as is platform agnostic content. The democratization of content is a necessary checks & balance process, it requires engaging content and the injection of that content across channels and platforms. Data services are their fastest growing segment.

  • Chase Carey, COO, News Corp (NWS): Content, particularly sports, is drifting to the cable side. Broadcast needs dual revenue streams. Retransmission was "given away," but broadcast is still 10% of media absorption. He views the NBC-Comcast merger as "more diversification than synergy on both sides of the retransmission fence." There are real opportunities to grow and expand the digital side of the business. He views the iPad (AAPL) as transformative. The WSJ will be interactive and real-time on the iPad, opening a new dimension to business news. The challenge is for the new business line to not cannibalize existing revenue streams. People will pay for quality experience and content-providers simply have to produce a worthy experience. Millenials will change media consumption trends for everyone.

  • Robert Kotick, CEO Activision Blizzard (ATVI): They sell digital products -- and plastic guitars! We have a very tech-centric future; the challenge is "analog" over the next ten years. "Animation must add story-telling from linear media to the mix; from character-based to story-telling based experience." (No, he didn't get a chance to meet the Critters!). He also noted that the millenials only exposure to "old music," such as The Eagles, is through gaming experiences such as Guitar Hero, where there are billions of hours of impressions to date. The "input/output" media model growing and the importance of search once convergence arrives is massive.

  • Les Moonves CEO of CBS Corp (CBS): Networks are finally getting paid by cable owners for retransmission. Reruns of CSI on TBS were making more than the originals, which were produced and paid for by the networks. Those lines are "finally blurring." The Comcast-NBC merger? "NBC is in 4th place so I hope nothing changes," he said with a smile, "I prefer the status quo." He then said it will be a powerful company with strong management coming over from Comcast (CMCSA). Media is becoming more technology-centric; it's not just content and distribution anymore. The internet and television will share the same screen in next 2 years. As it stands, online advertising revenue from shows like CSI are "nickels and dimes" but that will eventually change -- to a point. People will still want to watch the Super Bowl on television while checking stats online.

  • Terry noted that HBO was originally told that people wouldn't pay up for content. They proved to the world that they would. Tiered content models can -- and do -- exist.

  • Robert added that models will diversify: Subcription content, pay per view, advertising supported platforms and virtual economies will be next-generation evolutions that follow the "traditional" diversification model.

  • Irving: The averaged Ticketmaster transaction $160; people will pay for experience.

  • Terry asks: Will people eventually pay networks on a per show basis? Apple introduced the "flat rate" model at the same time as discussions about revenue sharing in the music industry. Apple obviously won. Will that translate to television?

  • Richard added that many business leaders are weighing "heritage and gravitas and a natural resistance to change."

  • When the discussion turned to 3-D -- and only a handful of minutes remained -- the views were quick and to the point. Robert offered there is great benefit to the interactive experience and the audience will pay a premium for better engagement in the gaming space. Chase said it's "not a fad and will continue to improve. Not for news, per se, but for events." Les offered it was great for sports but questioned whether the economics made sense. Irv said they're experimenting with 3-D in the music space, citing Kenny Chesney as an example. Chase opined that News Corp is experimenting in the 3-D space and will continue to explore opportunities; he sees a huge opportunity in the future.

As I sat on the redeye, making my way back to the big city, I found myself unable to sleep. At first I thought it was because I was squeezed between two rather large men who didn't subscribe to the "armrest boarder" airplane rule but I then realized it was so much more.

I was excited and enthused for the future. Dare I say I felt blessed to be "in the game" and enjoying the journey, one step at a time as difficult as those steps sometimes are. The last ten years have been brutal on a number of fronts and the next ten will require equally difficult decisions. What was evident, however, is that there is a ton of human capital motivated to make this world a better place and effect positive change through their words, actions and efforts.

I firmly believe that Minyanville is part of that solution and our community is a sum of those parts. My sincere gratitude for the latitude during my venture west; I hope that some of the vibes shared upon my return provide utility as we together find our way.

Good luck today.


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