‘Turnaround Imminent,’ Redstone Tells Fellow Media Magnates

11 July 2003

The big enchiladas of US media gathered this week at their 21st annual conference to discuss matters of mutual interest – such as fending off legislative restraints, increasing their collective dominance of the media market and maximizing the inward flow of dollars.

The press was not invited to the week-long talkfest, nor privy to its little intimacies. And the lips of most delegates were zipped as to the nature of the proceedings. Not so, however, loquacious Viacom chairman Sumner M Redstone.

Emerging from the conference center in Sun Valley Idaho Redstone was in ultra-bull mode, predicting to a pack of reporters that an end to the adspend recession is nigh. This prescience, he revealed, had been the gist of his address to his fellow moguls.

“The media industry is on the threshold of breakthrough performance,” Redstone declared. “We’re in for an advertising rebound. ... I’m very optimistic about Viacom, but also for the industry.”

Viacom, whose assets include CBS, MTV and Nickelodeon, is more ad-dependent than most – around 50% of its revenues derive from this source. The group is therefore likely to benefit from an ad recovery even more than its rivals.

Given the widespread interest in bidding for Vivendi Universal’s US media assets, this subject hovered near the top of the unpublished conference agenda. Redstone makes no secret of his eagerness but insists that Viacom would be “disciplined” and “price-sensitive” in its dealings. “We won't worry if we don't get it. There will be other opportunities,” he told the Wall Street Journal. [Many wonder if these might include Britain's ITV?]

Some five hundred delegates, the great and the good of the media universe, are expected to attend over the week as a whole.

Among those lining-up at the cafeteria for Maxwell House and burgers were investment guru Warren Buffett, Disney chairman Michael Eisner, NewsCorp president Peter Chernin and heir-apparent Lachlan Murdoch [Dad was busy gladhanding the Washington elite over DirecTV], CBS ceo Leslie Moonves and Miramx boss Harvey Weinstein.

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff