When it comes to technology, Sumner Redstone says he’s not an early adopter, but rather a “non-adopter”, joking about the fact that he doesn’t blog or Twitter. Still, during his keynote address to the Media and Money Conference, he made sure to get across that he’s hip to big digital trends and that CBS (NYSE: CBS) and Viacom (NYSE: VIA) are well positioned to take advantage of industry changes.
– New platforms creating new opportunities: Sumner falls solidly into the ‘content is king’ camp, as he stated several times. The key now is to embrace new forms of distribution: “The more platforms our content is on, the more numerous our revenue streams.” He then ticked off some of these new platforms, including Joost and social networking services like Last.fm and Flux: “Professionally produced content only increases in value as digital platforms multiply.”
– Advertising: “It seems fairly clear that advertising will for the most part pay the way on the internet, just as it has on traditional media platforms. …I think in all the public clamor in all the doomed fortunes of traditional media, people miss the greater trends at work.” Those that can offer a portfolio of integrated media have an advantage. CBS and Viacom also benefit from their global scale, which allows them to tap into tremendous growth. MTV is still the world’s most valuable global brand. MTV Arabia and Nickelodeon Arabia are coming. Later he was asked about the value of the MTV brand once any media firm could achieve the same global reach. His answer: Not anyone can do it.
– Copyright: “If content is king, copyright is its castle… Think about it, you can not pay the rent posting videos on YouTube… Most aspiring novelists do not aspire to self-publish. …The assurance of copyright protection is central to what we’re talking about: a global media operation.” (Viacom is suing Google (NSDQ: GOOG) and YouTube.) “Our obligation as media companies is to make an efficient market, one that serves the artist.” Solution is enlist ISPs and device makers. The key is to do something about piracy, not just talk about it. But, Redstone is not deaf to the problems with over-zealous content protection: “We need to make it easy for consumers to attain our content in a legal manner.” He specifically cited the failures of the music industry to make it easy for consumers to obtain legal content. He also acknowledged that flexibility is necessary in today’s environment, because the consumer is no longer just a customer, they’re also partners and creators.