Herb Allen’s Sun Valley Conference – 2012
“The sun was warmer then.”
This may be the last year I come here.
If I was looking for a complete waste of time, I would have gone back to Comic-Con.
You know the world is f-ed when you realize you are sitting in a ballroom with many of the world’s most powerful men (and WOMAN) in media and politics and the main topic of conversation is the temperature in the room.
Half of the room is wearing comfortable summer clothes (short sleeve shirts accentuating the effects of personal trainers) and the other half is wearing sweaters and badgering the wait staff to ‘turn up the Goddamned heat!’
It’s mostly generational (young = muscle shirt; old = sweater) with the exception of Bob Iger – but he’ll age and get fat one day (and it won’t be pretty).
I have two questions as Herb Allen’s 2012 Conference gets under way: How long will we have to endure pointless PowerPoint presentations about bullshit made-up research and how soon can we get to the bar? (I have a feeling these are also Oprah’s questions.)
I am, however, very excited that the Prime Minister of Italy (Mario Monti) is here and can’t wait to get a taste of his private wine stash (I heard he brought his own booze in a giant steamer trunk).
I’ve told bartender virtuoso Bin Tran to swap out the wine of one of Mr. Monti’s prized bottles with California’s own Two Buck Chuck. I’ll try to take a video of his reaction – see if I can make Herb’s end-of-conference blooper reel (which is always dominated by Jeffrey Katzenberg and his animal calls).
So, on the fun side, there should be a few highlights.
On the business side, it’s Goddamned depressing.
I look around the room at my friends and see nothing but old white men – men who were once powerful but now frail.
And I’m one of them, I fear.
“Disruption” is a current buzz word in the media business but everyone should remember, my old mogul friends freakin’ invented media disruption:
In the 1920s, Sumner Redstone helped usher in the transition from silent movies to sound.
In the 1940s, Barry Diller convinced a reluctant movie industry to start producing content for a new technology called “television.”
In the 1960s, Bob Iger convinced the black & white television industry to transition to a new technology called “color television.”
In the 1980s, if it wasn’t for me, Hollywood’s iconic, beautifully rendered animated characters wouldn’t have started showing up in Happy Meals and on Big Gulp cups.
And even today, my good friend Rupert Murdoch is changing the way news is gathered. By tapping directly into the victim’s phone messages, he has bypassed the tedious step of finding a credible source to get that same information.
These were seismic shifts in our industry. And now, we’re irrelevant?
As a sign of the times, just outside the ballroom here at the Sun Valley Lodge, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner was sitting at a table by himself hoping to sign copies of his Forbes Magazine cover (he also has poster sized ones available for $100).
That used to be Michael Eisner out there signing shit!
(Personally, I think being on the cover of Forbes is the equivalent of a football player being on the cover of Madden NFL. Others recently on the cover of Forbes include Andrew Mason, Paul Graham and Justin Bieber.)
If you only read Forbes, you would think Silicon Valley is the future of all media!
So… is Hollywood done?
Definitely… if you listen to the heads of the top Silicon Valley companies. According to them, they’ve got it all figured out. The general opinion there is that Hollywood is old, out of touch and getting older and out of toucher by the day.
Well, we’ll see about that, my young padawans.
Remember the first “Karate Kid” (30 years ago) when Mr. Miyagi kicks four young karate students’ asses in about 15 seconds? Hollywood is Mr. Miyagi.
Sure, you say, that’s a movie and not real. Bull shit, I say. Hollywood movies are in our DNA (something Silicon Valley will never understand) and we know how to manufacture happy endings.
There are already signs Silicon Valley is losing a bit of its swagger.
This year, they came on a bus.
So… the battle is joined on the neutral territory of the Sun Valley Lodge.
Hollywood vs. Silicon Valley. One will win. One will go back to their parents’ basement.
May God have mercy on us all.