Longtime News Corp. chief Peter Chernin lent real topical heft to the Paley Center’s International Council talk sessions by emphasizing that Stateside experience is no guarantee of understanding the “rich and complex” societies that represent a huge market that has yet to be exploited.
The attitude to avoid, he said, is, "Oh, aren’t we the experts"’ and, "Aren’t I wonderful, I ran a big media company."
"Not to minimize that or be coy," he said, "you do develop an enormous number of skills. But let me be clear: you don’t know.”
Chernin, who in his tenure shepherding various Fox content ventures from 1996 through 2009 oversaw all manner of film and television content, added that just because “you may know how to create a third-act break in a TV sitcom” you may not be prepared to embrace the moving consumer target represented by various Asian cultures.
Drawing on his own current immersion in the Far East, where he’s about to make his fourth trip in 10 months, he said the area “is much more complicated than I thought and has bigger opportunities than I thought.”
Among the statistics Chernin cited was a population of 240 million people in a technologically sophisticated but “wildly underdeveloped [as a market]” Indonesia, and the demographic of 800,000 relatively recent mobile phone users in China.
In India, he added, there are more children under 14 than the entire population of the United States. At the moment, he added, most families have just one TV set, “controlled by the mother, except when cricket’s on.” That leaves, he said, a vast need for the tech-savvy young Indians to access content by other means.
A really fascinating opportunity, Chernin says, should come when those tech adopters start getting their hands on tablets that sell for as little as $30-$50, and begin to take advantage of 3G and the now-building 4G networks to view content.
Domestically, while Chernin sees Google settled into search leadership and Facebook in a similar role in social media, the interesting area where confusion still reigns is news and information. Despite the efforts of companies like AOL, MSN and Yahoo, Chernin said, “We haven’t seen the dominant next generation news and info business built yet.”
Finally, asked where he would place bet for the next growth spurt in the media world, Chernin (who is a director at Pandora music service) paused and said, "If I knew, I wouldn’t be here.”