Media moguls descend upon Sun Valley


SUN VALLEY, Idaho -- Media and tech execs slowly trickled in throughout the day Tuesday as the town got ready for the 28th annual Allen & Co. gathering.

After a top-secret but low-key welcoming event Tuesday evening, the retreat's formal program will start early Wednesday with a panel on the future of entertainment in the digital age moderated by the New Yorker's media writer Ken Auletta. His panelists: IAC CEO Barry Diller, DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, former News Corp. No. 2 Peter Chernin and Activision Blizzard boss Bobby Kotick.

Auletta told The Hollywood Reporter that he expects most content giants to look more aggressively at ways to make money from paid content in the digital world, even though News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch has been the most vocal about paywalls online.

Among other planned panels are a discussion on the fast-evolving science of the brain and a session on the world economy and overseas business opportunities. There's also a panel on cities and the issues facing them that is likely to feature New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan.

Disney CEO Robert Iger caused a stir among reporters when he arrived at the Sun Valley Lodge, where many attendees are staying, with wife Willow Bay.

But asked the question on everybody's mind -- namely, whether the Mouse House will sell ABC -- Iger smiled and said, "I'm not going to answer the question on everybody's mind."

Michael Ovitz's arrival a couple of hours later also attracted attention, but the former CAA boss had little insight to share about likely topics of debate.

Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav told the press that the economy and advertising market still are looking healthy, but because that can change quickly in a slow recovery, he expects some talk about the outlook here this week.

"Advertising remains pretty strong," Zaslav said.

He predicted a lot more 3D content, including possibly on the planned OWN network, a joint venture of Oprah Winfrey and Discovery. Zaslav said Winfrey is in Hawaii and won't be coming to Sun Valley.

Asked about Murdoch's push into paid content online, he said, "I think that's a good step forward."

Robin Li, CEO of Chinese Internet giant Baidu, also caused a ruckus upon arrival as CNBC's Julia Boorstin wanted to know if he is looking to partner with U.S. content companies.

"We'll see. I don't know," he replied as he got out of his car.

As industry players have continued to look for ways to expand overseas, cross-border partnerships are expected to be a topic at this week's mogul retreat.

Among the other big-name arrivals Tuesday were Chernin, CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves and family, Haim Saban and Michael Ovitz.

As far as the annual surprise guest at the Allen & Co. retreat goes, it was unclear Tuesday.

Last year's special speaker, LeBron James, is on the original guest list again, but the NBA's most-wanted free agent won't come here as he is expected to make a decision on his future club this week.

Tonight, fashion maven Diane Von Furstenberg will host a soiree for the Dream Foundation, a Santa Barbara, Calif.-based organization that emulates the Make-A-Wish Foundation specifically for adults rather than children.

Von Furstenberg will host the event at a local Sun Valley boutique; her husband Barry Diller is expected, too.

Dan Cox contributed to this report.
comments powered by Disqus