Dreaming of deals at Sun Valley

4:15 PM PST 07/07/2010 by Georg Szalai, Dan Cox

Odd mogul pairings spark speculation of what's brewing

SUN VALLEY, Idaho -- The media and tech mogul cadre is on summer camp at Herb Allen's Sun Valley gathering, and few have shared thoughts with the press, but one of the most popular activities at this annual tradition is talk about who has been seen with whom at the bar, walking through town or otherwise interacting.

Here is THR's evolving look at odd couples spotted here and what they might have had reason to discuss:

-- Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts and Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav:
THR spotted them among moguls and their families during a Thursday lunch time interaction at the duck pond. Were they just discussing the future after the planned Comcast-NBC Universal deal or also a possible new carriage deal for Discovery's networks?

-- Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman and DirecTV CEO Mike White:
Speaking of possible new carriage agreements, Viacom's cable networks struck a multi-year arrangement with satellite TV giant DirecTV several years ago. The companies wouldn't disclose its exact run time, but it would make sense to come up for renewal soon. Could the relatively new DirecTV boss and the Viacom chief have laid some groundwork for a new deal during a stroll in Sun Valley?

-- Time Warner Cable and Disney have a network carriage agreement that ends in August, but top execs from the two firms haven't been spotted together in public so far.

-- DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeff Katzenberg and Rupert Murdoch: We also spotted those two walking through Sun Valley together on Wednesday afternoon. Maybe just a friendly catch-up chat among moguls, but Wall Street has long wondered whether DWA may leave its current distribution deal with Paramount early. It runs through 2012, but DWA can end it with six months notice in 2011 -- meaning starting right around now. News Corp.'s Fox has its Blue Sky Studio, which currently turns out about one animated movie per year ("Ice Age," the upcoming "Rio"). Arguably, it could get a little crowded to add in a potential two DWA movies per year, but not undoable. Of course, Katzenberg has said he is happy with the Paramount relationship. So, maybe DWA just enjoys being popular and having us mention a public flirt with other distributors. And hey, looking popular could also help DWA get better terms with Paramount if they re-up ...

-- Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes plus CFO John Martin and Walt Disney CEO Robert Iger:
We hear of a meeting here, which is common practice in Sun Valley, of course. We bet that, among other things, the conglomerate top execs discussed digital content, especially on the iPad, and how to better monetize it.

-- AOL CEO Tim Armstrong and AOL board member and agency veteran Jim Wiatt had a lunch-time conversation with Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman:
AOL has continued to look for content deals under Armstrong's leadership, so keep your eyes open for possible fallout from this meeting!

-- The Weinstein Co.'s Harvey Weinstein chatted up Amazon founder Jeff Bezos for nearly an hour (but also had talks with the likes of Disney CEO Iger and others). Bezos is looking for content for Amazon and the Kindle electronic reader, so TWC could help. Or might Weinstein have been looking for new financing for TWC or another bid attempt for Miramax before others can seal a deal?

-- Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg left the Sun Valley Lodge in deep conversation with Google's Eric Schmidt. Google has long seen Facebook as a competitor and is looking to create its own social networking offering. One scenario would have Facebook pitching itself as a Google networking service in return for giving Google a stake or a promise by Google not to launch its own Facebook killer. Schmidt on Thursday confirmed the talks, but wouldn't say what they could lead to. He did, however, share that Facebook users also tend to do more Google searches.

-- Twitter creator Jack Dorsey was tagged with Weinstein and "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" creator Haim Saban, among others. Dorsey could have been sharing ideas for promotional strategies on Twitter or looking to win the content guys over for new paid Twitter services.

-- Sony CFO Rob Wiesenthal and former Viacom CEO Tom Freston were seen chatting. Maybe they are just old friends catching up.

-- Aussie Lachlan Murdoch, son of News Corp. founder Rupert, and Israeli Aviv "Vivi" Nevo, a big Time Warner investor, walked into the Sun Valley Lodge together to share a chat in the bar. Perhaps the two discussed investment opportunities; Murdoch has his own media investment firm in Sydney.

-- Former MySpace CEO Owen Van Natta at lunch time sat down with Mark Pincus, CEO of social gaming firm Zynga, which has been one of the hot newcomers to the Allen & Co. gathering.
Some expect Zynga to possibly partner with more industry players, while others have wondered about a possible sale. "That would be very expensive though," said one finance-savvy attendee of the mogul summit. Did Van Natta simply share his expertise or are the two cooking up more? Maybe the Zynga board is looking for added talent ...

-- What is DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeff Katzenberg doing on the deck of the Sun Valley Inn having coffee with Wall Street maven and KKR partner Henry Kravis? Is Katzenberg looking for financing or sharing his insights into the film business as KKR is exploring an investment in CAA? Or is it just a friendly cup of coffee in Sun Valley? Neither Kravis nor Katzenberg had any comment.

Gregg Kilday in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
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