Redstone: Content still king in digital domain


NEW YORK -- Meet the next hot digital media entrepreneur -- Sumner Redstone.

The Viacom Inc. and CBS Corp. chairman Thursday morning applied his old industry mantra to the new media space in a speech entitled: "In the digital domain, content still rules."

Among other things, Redstone touted his companies' strong online reach compared to such recent phenomenons as 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," and 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 appearance at the Media and Money conference, organized by Dow Jones and The Hollywood Reporter's corporate parent The Nielsen Company, Redstone started with some giggles.

"I do not pretend to be a technology maven," he said. "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 emails, 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:

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

2) "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.

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

4) "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 Internet sites out there, "digital means dollars for those with the best content," he said.

Redstone said that mobile devices and content for them are ready to explode. Said the Viacom and CBS chairman: "It's on-the-move devices that are the next primetime venue."

Redstone said today's business has become the "fragmented search economy," which, he argued, "means we need to extend our content beyond our own destination sites, so consumers can find it more easily."

He lauded Viacom for being the biggest producer of mobile content in the world and said the firm's Internet portfolio some 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."

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 multi-platform, 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.

Finally, on copyright protection, he said there is a trend of "governments in piracy-prone markets, such as China and India, taking an active interest in enforcing copyright, if only to protect their own home-grown content."

India's movie industry, for example, has been lobbying the government for expanded protection, while China "is looking to safeguard the high value content it will produce for the Beijing Olympics," Redstone said.