What's going on in the world of media? Over the next three days, Deutsche Banc Alex. Brown will try to figure that out.
The firm's ninth annual media conference runs through Wednesday in New York City, featuring more than 100 companies, as well as top media dogs like
President Mel Karmazin and
AOL Time Warner
CEO Jerry Levin.
To get a sense of the major themes of the conference, we talked with Dyan Triffo, a Deutsche Banc managing director who is head of West Coast media banking. Triffo is a seven-year veteran of the firm who has worked with companies including
; she specializes in the cable and satellite business as well as new media. She talked about the shifting relationship between content and distribution, the experience of major media companies on the Internet and other issues.
TSC: How is this year's conference going to be different from previous ones?
This year our media conference is focused very much on some of the larger-cap players in each of the segments of the media industry. And our effort this year was to get the players of scale who are really influencing the direction of their industry to come -- as opposed to in years past, where we've had a bit more of a growth focus.
We were very much focused on trying to highlight a couple of key themes that are really going across a lot of the different media areas. Deregulation is a big one.
We also have been very focused as a group on this whole issue of content and distribution, and whether the two businesses will be separate or will continue on sort of a merging trend as they have been lately.
TSC: This may be obvious, but why did you decide to go with large-cap rather than small-cap this year?
The conference is really an investor-focused conference. And what we're trying to do is follow the themes of investors. And I think it's pretty clear right now in the market, with the shakeout going on in the growth sector, that people realize that the traditional players are starting to have some sway and might dictate the future of that.
Everybody's sort of going back to basics and looking at the sectors that have seemed a little safer or that have a little bit longer history to them. But I also think that investors are looking for the next growth trend by listening to what the big gorilla players are saying.
TSC: When you talk about the merging of content and distribution -- didn't that happen a long time ago, back with Time Warner and Viacom? What are you referring to right now?
In the new media sector, you can look at
recent purchase of
on the music front. And I guess maybe the content/distribution question -- maybe the Internet is the last to go. You could look at
and say, "Are they ever going to get into the actual distribution business?"
TSC: Major media companies such as Disney (DIS) - Get Report, GE's (GE) - Get ReportNBC and the New York Times (NYT) - Get Report have ventured into the Internet over the past five years, and didn't do so well, in retrospect. Why do you think this might have been?
I think in some ways it was cultural. For the first several years of building an interactive presence, you really almost needed to have the kind of entrepreneurial, stay-up-all-night, burn-the-midnight-oil-and-beyond, to really move fast enough to try to get out and get ahead of the pack.
To develop a successful company early on the Internet -- those early users were really susceptible to this cachet and buzz. And it didn't really connect itself with a traditional media brand.
What you might say is the big guys came in early. I think they've learned a lot of lessons over time. I think that the big mistake that people made was to think that if you had a big brand in one medium, that it automatically translated to a big brand on the Internet. And I think that people found out that that wasn't necessarily true. That other things drove the success in that medium.
In the world of broadband, when and if it comes -- and that is probably years off -- I actually think the traditional guys are going to have a big advantage because the things they are good in -- if you're Disney and you've got a lot of programming assets you can put over a broadband pipe -- I think at that point you become very relevant. And I think if you're a Vivendi or a Bertelsmann, and you've got music, once the copyright issues are resolved, then you've got a big edge again.
I still think that the traditional guys will have a huge leg up. But it might have been that we were all running a sprint when this is a marathon and we're only in the third mile.