Redstone: Content also rules digital

Exec touts his firms' online savvy

Meet the next hot digital media entrepreneur: Sumner Redstone.

The Viacom and CBS Corp. chairman Thursday applied one of his old industry mantras to the new-media space in a speech at the Dow Jones/Nielsen Co. Media and Money conference titled "In the Digital Domain, Content Still Rules."

Among other things, Redstone touted his companies' strong online reach compared to recent phenomenons like Facebook and their growing advertising revenue coming from cross-platform deals.

While Viacom has sued Google's YouTube, Redstone also called on media companies "to make it easy for consumers to obtain our content in a legal manner," adding that content producers "cannot let the lack of perfect anti-piracy tools keep us from forging ahead in providing the best, most innovative, creative content to the consumer over whatever medium they prefer."

In his keynote, Redstone started with some giggles as CBS president and CEO Leslie Moonves and Viacom president and CEO Philippe Dauman watched their boss from the front row.

"I do not pretend to be a technology maven," Redstone said, earning laughs. "I'm not an early adopter. In fact, I have reached the point in my life that I can best be described as a non-adopter. I don't ping people with e-mails, I don't blog or twitter, and I won't be texting any of you anytime soon."

Redstone argued four key points for media and entertainment folks during the rest of his speech and said Viacom and CBS have done well keeping them in mind:

Consumers have taken charge, and there is no going back, so content providers must keep bringing their offerings to all platforms.

"Advertising will 'pay' the way ? even on the Internet," and so-called old-media companies have a chance to benefit if they play things right.

Global growth opportunities are increasingly a two-way process as U.S. content goes overseas and vice versa and U.S. media companies invest in indigenous programming overseas.

"Copyright is even more right in the digital age."

Redstone argued that with consumers having taken charge in the digital age, content must be "viral, ubiquitous and easy to use."

And with 500 channels and 8 billion Web sites out there, "digital means dollars for those with the best content," he said.

Redstone lauded Viacom for being the biggest producer of mobile content in the world and said the firm's Internet portfolio has about 92 million visitors per month worldwide. "That's double Facebook's user base and lands us in the top 10 list of Internet destinations," he touted. "Of those 10, only Wikipedia is growing faster."

He also lauded CBS for recently creating the CBS Audience Network, which, Redstone touted, reaches 90% of Web users.

On the topic of advertising, Redstone said media and entertainment companies also have great opportunity, despite a move to the Web. After all, "advertisers are not simply shifting dollars to digital, they are pursuing multiplatform, convergent marketing partnerships," he said.

CBS Corp. and Viacom have overhauled their ad sales organizations to serve that need. At Viacom, nearly 40% of all ad deals are now "convergent" deals, Redstone said.


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Media and Money conference Web site

MEDIA AND MONEY: A Hollywood Reporter special report on private-equity activities in the entertainment and media industries.