Media moguls predict slow economic recovery


SUN VALLEY, Idaho -- Lingering anxiety over the state of the economy colored the proceedings at the 28th annual Sun Valley media and tech mogul gathering.

On the sidelines of the Allen & Co. camp, execs predicted a long and slow U.S. recovery, which could also affect the advertising market. A few expressed fears of a double-dip recession. Liberty Media chairman John Malone told reporters he is "quite concerned" about the state of things.

"I just don't see the catalyst in the U.S. for major growth," he said.

Similarly, Liberty CEO Greg Maffei highlighted signs of sluggish consumer spending and predicted "a long, hard slog." And media investor Gordon Crawford spoke of a "slow-growth environment" around the world.

No industry biggies rang major alarm bells about the recent strength of the ad market or made specific projections. Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav summed up the mood by saying that things can change quickly in a slow recovery but "advertising remains pretty strong."

While many think President Obama will introduce business-friendly policies to help create jobs, some in the media mogul camp, which has a reputation for being traditionally Democratic, pointed to tax policies as well as rising health care costs -- a topic of an Allen & Co. panel -- and budget deficits as key concerns.

Malone had some sharp words for the Obama, telling reporters his strength is making great speeches. But others apparently expressed discontent during panel discussions and schmoozing affairs, all of which were off-limits to the reporter posse.

Most of the media and conference attendee attention seemed to focus on tech players rather than media moguls, particularly those with Google, Facebook (whose CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg were sought-after conversation partners) and social gaming firm Zynga (whose CEO, Mark Pincus, also was in demand).

Several said that content and digital/tech players (or old and new media) seemed to be seeking more cooperation, believing both sides can benefit financially as long as content deals are structured smartly.

And Google execs, while in an informal press conference bashing Viacom for suing Google's YouTube, extended a hand to Hollywood, saying the video site is open for business with content partners and willing to let them choose between ad-driven and subscription-based models.

Dan Cox contributed to this report.
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