Revving up is focus of retreat

Digital plans, merger talk due at Sun Valley confab

NEW YORK -- After struggling with an economic downturn much of the past year, industry heavyweights attending next week's Allen & Co. retreat of media moguls in Sun Valley, Idaho, are expected to focus on ways to strengthen and grow their businesses in the upturn.

The gathering, hosted by investment banker Herb Allen Jr., has run for 27 years and again will pack Hollywood and Wall Street power into the Sawtooth Mountains resort that claims the world's first ski lift. With an economic boost estimated to be in the millions, the event will inject money into Sun Valley and surrounding areas on the heels of local media reports about recent cancellations of other big gatherings of financial institutions.

Among this year's expected mogul attendees are Time Warner chairman and CEO Jeffrey Bewkes; News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch, along with son James Murdoch, who is chairman and CEO of News Corp.'s European and Asian businessesdeputy chairman, and newly tapped News Corp. president and COO Chase Carey; News Corp. chief digital officer Jon Miller and new MySpace CEO Owen Van Natta; CBS Corp. president and CEO Leslie Moonves and CBS Interactive CEO Quincy Smith, a former Allen & Co. executive; Viacom president and CEO Philippe Dauman; Vivendi CEO and chairman of the management board Jean-Bernard Levy; and Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick.

Other big names who have been Sun Valley regulars through the years are Sony chairman and CEO Howard Stringer, IAC chairman and CEO Barry Diller, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Google chairman and CEO Eric Schmidt.

With industry CEOs focused on developing new models to charge for Web and other digital content, one key theme surely will be the next steps for digital media and entertainment and how to make them real businesses.

Bewkes' "TV Everywhere" initiative, which pushes for cable-network content to be available online for all multichannel subscribers, also will be a likely topic of discussion.

It wouldn't, however, be Sun Valley without deal talk. Expect the return of last year's big merger topic: a possible Yahoo-Microsoft pact.

Movie studios also are hot candidates for M&A buzz.

Despite a strong boxoffice this year, a DVD-sales slump and an attempt by congloms to boost studio profitability have led Sony, Paramount and Fox to talk about collapsing physical-service operations in their home entertainment divisions into a single operation. There also has been recent industry chatter about a potential Time Warner play for DreamWorks Animation.

Organizers and attendees are as tight-lipped as always about the official program agenda and possible special guests, though at least one person suggested that newly confirmed FCC chairman Julius Genachowski would make a good guest speaker.