Media mogul Barry Diller, who was the key executive that created Fox and USA Broadcasting companies, is a legend in the television business. But as the deep pocket behind Aereo, the Internet TV service, he has lately been cast as the villain who is trying to destroy the business of broadcasting.
Now the chairman of IAC, an interactive commerce conglomerate, Diller’s words — regardless of the side one’s on — command attention. Last week, he was interviewed at the Newspaper Association of American’s mediaxchange conference in Orlando and was as brutally honest as ever.
Diller warned that “sleepy” companies that behave like “recovering alcoholics” as ad sales continue to plummet would go out of business in this “age of disruption.” He also expressed surprise that many media websites, including those of television stations, don’t capitalize on their “ability to be so granular and local that you are every possible grain to anyone who lives in a defined community.”
Now is the time, Diller stressed, that television and newspaper organizations should get more granular than ever before.
“I see the death of irrelevant media,” he said.
But those media companies that are alert and willing to spend on innovation will be fine, he surmised.
As to Aereo, his controversial Internet television service, Diller downplayed a recent legal victory in a federal appellate court that found the service’s streams of TV shows do not infringe on broadcaster’s copyrights.
“It doesn’t mean that we’ve won, but it means we haven’t lost,” he said.
News Corp.’s Fox network’s recent threats of moving to cable as a paid network in the face of Aereo’s threat don’t mean much, Diller said.
“That’s a lot of noise,” he said, noting that he suspects the network is trying to pressure Congress to change copyright laws in their favor.
Complacency and success are incompatible in modern media, Diller noted.
“Once the brick is thrown, then you have to develop new revenue streams,” he said. “You have no choice. It is that concentration of innovation that will produce new revenue streams.”
We are at a precipice of a major generational shift with the intersection of the media and rapidly advancing technology, Diller said.
“We are at the very end of the first generation ... not yet in the second generation,” he said. “That’s why I’m optimistic.”