Viacom – the New Media Winner

An incisive analysis by the NYT on how some of the media conglomerates bet on convergence and failed, resulting in Viacom coming out ahead of the pack:

Viacom is the only global media conglomerate that never succumbed to the allure of the Internet. It has steadfastly resisted the defining “big idea” of the 21st-century media business: that the Internet will profoundly transform the way people consume information and entertainment, necessitating radical changes in the way companies distribute their movies, television shows, music and magazines.

It is not that Viacom rejects the importance of the Internet – or even the notion that it is changing the habits of consumers, particularly young ones, in ways that will generate exciting new businesses.

But unlike Bertelsmann under Mr. Middelhoff, Vivendi Universal under Jean-Marie Messier or AOL Time Warner under Gerald M. Levin and Robert W. Pittman, Viacom did not bet its corporate ranch on convergence – the marriage of old-line media assets with Internet-age technology.

Mr. Middelhoff, Mr. Messier and Mr. Pittman, the chief operating officer at AOL Time Warner, were all shown the door within three weeks of one another. So if career survival is any guide, Viacom’s pragmatic approach appears to have been the right bet.

What a turnaround in two-and-a-half-years – it was only in Jan 2000 was when AOL acquired Time Warner. People have lived a lifetime in these short years.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.