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Panel Detail:

Wednesday, April 30, 2008
3:35 PM - 4:50 PM

Media and Entertainment: Consequences of the Digital Revolution

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Panelists on the "Media and Entertainment" panel included, from left, Peter Chernin of News Corporation, Robert Kotick of Activision Inc. and Terry Semel, former CEO of Yahoo! Inc.

The world of mass entertainment is facing a transformation perhaps even more profound than the shift it faced in the early 1980s with the rise of the VCR and the personal computer. Industry leaders met to discuss how these changes are converging and how they will shape the future of entertainment in a provocative session moderated by CNBC editor Dennis Kneale. The panelists, all representing major media companies, discussed the barriers and benefits of the digital revolution.

Throughout the session, the panelists returned to the question of "What does a 21st-century company look like?" Terry Semel (of Windsor Media, formerly of Yahoo!) noted a historical pattern in which past media corporations dominated older technologies but did not own newer innovations (such as radio stations not owning television), opening the door for a changing of the guard. Peter Chernin of News Corporation added, "We are in the business of trying to create content," noting that companies are adjusting to the new patterns and transformation of consumer consumption. Mark Thompson of the BBC agreed, saying that it's wrong to look at digital as simply a new way to distribute old technology. In the end, innovations in distribution will happen, thanks to these new companies with differing business models.

The next item on the agenda was a shift towards the benefits of the digital revolution and how it will change the way people interact. The focus was on connectivity. Robert Kotick of Activision spoke about the way that video-game consoles are moving towards connecting TV to the Internet in ways that haven't been accomplished before. Adding on to the idea of connectivity, each of the panelists noted the importance of mobile phones. Although there are 1 billion television viewers and 1 billion users on the Internet, there are 2 billion cell phone users around the world.

A question arose about the lifespan of theaters. Thompson noted that movie theaters are universal, that digital film and the movie theater experience can and will co-exist. Other questions brought up included the role of U.S. broadband and its slow connection speed in relation to the rest of the world. For now, even though the industry is moving towards downloadable content such as movies and video games, the lack of infrastructure to support such measures is hindering its adoption.

The panel ended its discussion with advertising advice and lessons for company business models. Kotick brought up his company's wildly successful game Guitar Hero, which includes untold hours of untapped advertising potential. Semel built on this with the concept of opening up platforms, creating Web sites that allow people to access their personal information that is currently housing on a multitude of sites. The panel concluded by addressing piracy; other media sectors are hoping to avoid the struggles of the music industry by adapting to change instead of fighting against it.

Speakers:

Peter Chernin, President and Chief Operating Officer, News Corporation; Chairman, Malaria No More

Robert Kotick, Chairman and CEO, Activision Inc.

Terry Semel, Chairman and CEO, Windsor Media; Former Chairman and CEO, Yahoo! Inc.

Mark Thompson, Director-General, British Broadcasting Company (BBC)

Moderator:

Dennis Kneale, Media and Technology Editor, CNBC


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