UBS conference assesses the past

36th annual confab tracks media changes over the years

NEW YORK -- Attendees of the 36th annual Global Media and Communications Conference, organized by UBS, were reminded of how much the media and entertainment industries have changed in recent decades.

Jeff Sine, vice chairman of UBS Investment Bank and global head of technology, media & telecommunications banking, opened the conference Monday morning by highlighting that it is "the longest-running investor conference on Wall Street."

In its first edition in 1972, one big discussion topic was a new ban on cigarette advertising, he pointed out.

Since then, the global population has nearly doubled, and the U.S. share of the global media market has halved.

In a political similarity, back in the early days of the annual gathering, Richard Nixon had won reelection to the White House in a landslide similar to Barack Obama's victory this year. But in a key sign of the changing digital times, the President-elect raised $500 million from Internet donors, Sine pointed out.

Broadcast TV has remained strong over the decades, showing its reach with this year's Beijing Olympics. "Who said that broadcast television is dead?!," Sine said. But he also highlighted the increasing audience fragmentation since the early 1970s.

For example, top TV show "All in the Family" back then had a 54% household share, compared to 20% for today's "Dancing with the Stars" last week, he said.

In the film world, budgets have ballooned from "The Godfather's" $6 million to this year's $185 million "Dark Knight," Sine said.

"Now we live in a different media world," the media banker concluded, highlighting that product scarcity and pricing power of media companies are history in today's digital media world.

This and the current economic downturn and global financial crisis make this week's 36th edition of the UBS conference particularly challenging for media executives, Sine said. "Management complexity has never been greater," he said.
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