That ventures like Google (NSDQ: GOOG) TV and Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) TV make traditional media companies justifiably anxious was actually the good news from Peter Chernin, former president of News Corp (NSDQ: NWS). The bad news he told the Web 2.0 Summit: Those aren’t the only companies capable of doing damage to the incumbents.
“I think that the traditional media people are nervous about both these new technologies,” said Chernin, who sat alongside Netflix CEO Reed Hastings for a panel session devoted to the content business. He explained the root of the fear: The biggest media companies owed 50-90% of their profits to the multichannel business, “one of the all-time great business model,” said Chernin. “They’re nervous, not inappropriately so, about being disefranchised from the cable model.”
But, wait, it gets worse: “I think people are a little bit excessively focused on Google and Apple,” said Chernin, who then proceeded to tick off a list of chefs fixing to cook their golden goose: Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) (via XBox 360), Samsung and Sony (NYSE: SNE) (Internet-connected TVs), Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN), and maybe just to be polite to the guy sitting next to him, Netflix (NSDQ: NFLX). Chernin put it in perspective with this estimate: the entire global TV ecosystem is a half-trillion-dollar business, and eroding even a fragment of it amounted to a huge opportunity.
Hastings did point out one bright side though: The profusion of distributors like Netflix was driving up the price of content these companies sell to them. “It’s great to have Netflix and Hulu to bet against the traditional incumbents because they sit back and take the best offer,” he said.
Interviewer John Heilemann began the session alluding to an AllThingsD story published earlier in the day that Chernin was discussing business opportunities with Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO), but Chernin didn’t address the report. Instead, he talked expansively about the growth opportunities outside the U.S.; since leaving News Corp. last year, he set up his own film/TV production company at Fox, as well as a recently announced new-media venture aimed at the Asian marketplace.