Allen & Co.'s Sun Valley Summit is all about securing face time with the dealmakers of corporate America.
Discussions at the annual confab have laid the groundwork for past deals such as Comcast Corp.'s (CMCSA - Get Report) acquisition of NBC Universal, Alphabet Inc./Google's (GOOGL - Get Report) purchase of YouTube and Time Warner's (TWX) ill-fated merger with America Online.
The moguls convening in Idaho this week have plenty of history with each other. Some prior maneuvers (such as Twenty-First Century Fox's (FOXA) hostile bid for Time Warner) and current developments (including Facebook (FB - Get Report) copying Snap's (SNAP - Get Report) Stories feature) could complicate meetings. And that's before getting into politics in the era of Trump, and controversial topics such as net neutrality.
Here are a few potential encounters and conversations that could quickly turn awkward.
Time Warner CEO Bewkes flat-out rejected Murdoch's proposed courtship of Time Warner in 2014, and the Fox mogul ultimately stormed off. Bewkes and new BFF Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T Inc. (T - Get Report) , will be toasting their mega merger in Sun Valley this week. As Fox wrangles with British regulators to close the acquisition of Sky plc, Murdoch might prefer to avoid small talk about how things are going between Time Warner and AT&T.
Don't expect Snap Chief Strategy Officer Imran Khan and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg to pose for a selfie. Instagram has essentially ripped off Snapchat's Stories feature and is beating the rival social media outfit at its own game. Facebook's success at co-opting Snap's techniques has weighed on the upstart rival's shares since the company went public in March. Snap's shares fell below their $17 IPO price for the first time on Monday, July 10, and were falling still further on Tuesday on an analyst downgrade.
Spotify CEO Daniel Ek may harbor a similar grudge against Apple Inc. (AAPL - Get Report) . As Ek's streaming service considers an IPO, Apple has launched an a series of algorithm-driven playlists that reminds some of Spotify's own mixes. Apple's latest offering, My Chill Mix, borrows from Spotify's algorithm-based Discover Weekly feature that uses data to help find tunes that will fit users' tastes. Spotify still has a larger number of paid subscribers than Apple Music (50 million vs. 27 million), but Apple Music is growing fast.
Netflix Inc. (NFLX - Get Report) and its streaming video service have been a thorn in the side of legacy TV groups for years. Fox actually sued the company for poaching employees, though a California court rejected Fox's argument this year. After scandals hit Fox this year, Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos quipped at a May industry conference, "I wouldn't have guessed a few months ago that we would be the least interesting labor story at News Corp."
Politics could be a dicey topic for Elon Musk this week. Musk very publicly stepped down from President Trump's technology councils after the president withdrew from the Paris climate accord. This week the Tesla Inc. (TSLA - Get Report) boss will cross paths with fellow PayPal Holdings Inc. (PYPL - Get Report) co-founder Peter Thiel, who was the most prominent techie to openly support Trump as a candidate. Meanwhile, Sun Valley will be a reunion for attendees at Trump's technology summit in June, including Thiel, Amazon's (AMZN - Get Report) Jeff Bezos, Apple's Cook, AT&T's Stephenson, and Verizon's (VZ - Get Report) Lowell McAdam.
Verizon's McAdam and Charter Communications Inc. (CHTR - Get Report) board member John Malone, who is also chairman of Liberty Media, are experienced dealmakers with plenty of business to discuss -- Charter has an agreement to resell Verizon wireless service. However, anyone who chats with McAdam for too long tends to wind up in the press as a takeover target. Since agreeing to buy Yahoo!, Verizon has been reportedly linked to Charter, Twitter Inc. (T - Get Report) , Time Inc.'s (TIME) Time Magazine, Pandora Inc. (P) and Disney (DIS - Get Report) . McAdam may not bump into Walt Disney Co. (DIS - Get Report) CEO Bob Iger, who reportedly is not attending, although other executives from the movie studio, cable network and theme park operator are expected.
When Sun Valley hits its stride on Wednesday, Bezos's Amazon and Zuckerberg's Facebook will be taking part in a pro-net neutrality Internet protest accusing Internet service providers of "widespread throttling, blocking, censorship, and extra fees," in the words of the organizers. Stephenson and other network providers favor scaling back some of the internet regulations that former President Obama's FCC put in place. Bezos and other vocal net neutrality advocates might want to leave talks with Stephenson, McAdam and Malone until later in the week.
Digital ad spending surpassed TV advertising for the first time in 2016, IPG Mediabrands' Magna reports, and Facebook and Google are leading the charge. Zuckerberg plans to go further into TV land with a greater presence in video with original content and other offerings that will make life more difficult for CBS Chairman and CEO Les Moonves, Viacom CEO Bob Bakish and TV industry powers at Sun Valley.