The tech titans and media moguls schmoozed and chatted through the first full day of meetings at the Allen + Co. Conference. It was a quiet day in terms of deal buzz; perhaps largely because the Yahoo folks haven't arrived yet.
And while none of the CEOs we chatted with seemed negatively impacted by the economy--in fact they were all generally optimistic--the fact that media stocks have been hammered hard this week and Viacomand CBSare at all time lows has got to be casting a pall.
The big session of the day was led by Jeff Bezos, on the future of advertising and e-commerce, featuring Amazon'se-book gadget, the Kindle. It must have been pretty impressive because even infamous luddite Warren Buffett told us that he may even get one. (More on our exclusive interview with him later). While some execs like LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman say they didn't learn much. But SpotRunner CEO Nick Grouf pointed out that this kind of presentation gives the non-techies the knowledge base to level the playing field and opens the door for real conversation about the issues of transitioning to a digital future.
The day sounded pretty conflict-free with the notable exception of a very public clash in the second session today called "Looking around the Corner to the Future" featuring Marc Andreesen, co-founder of Ning, IAC CEO Barry Diller and Google co-founder Larry Page. Apparently Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman attacked Google - saying to Page that Google is not compensating content creators for distribution via YouTube. This happens to not be true anymore, but it highlights the persistent conflict between new and old media, exemplified by Viacom's lawsuit against Google's YouTube that was a big story here last year.
Then came the schmoozefest, a post-session lunch out by the duck pond. Watching the CEOs float from table to table painted images of all sorts of potential deals and resurrected memories of partnerships past. At first the pairings were pretty obvious: Sony CEO Howard Stringer sitting with Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton and Stringer's old friend, Joel Klein, New York City's Schools Chancellor. Then the big names began gravitating to their old buddies - former Disney CEO Michael Eisner chatting with current Disney CEO Bob Iger and Disney finance chief Tom Staggs. Time WarnerCEO Jeff Bewkes (who's managed to avoid talking to me while remaining entirely friendly) lunched with big money man Henry Kravitz.
Rachel Ray is one of the surprise guests, making her first appearance at this Allen + Co. event. She hid behind giant sunglasses and sat towards the back. She was quite the hot commodity. And then there were the hot commodity startups. Max Levchin, the CEO of Slide and one of the founders of PayPal roamed around - lingering with Barry Diller.
Harvey Weinstein blew in, apparently straight off the plane. It appeared nothing was going to stop his march into the lunch area until he bumped into Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi- he said he wasn't making any deals except with her - "she's a movie star." Today, Gawker totally skewered Weinstein, saying effectively that his company is out of money.
Is he going to look for money here? Last year he and BET founder Bob Johnson were handing out dealbooks for their "Our Stories" venture. We'll see if any company is compelling enough in this environment to justify investment.
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