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Awkward in Sun Valley: Moguls Mingle While Old Media Struggles Through ‘Transition’

Three of the major studios are having some growing pains as the media confab unfolds

The sight of usually impeccably dressed moguls like Rupert Murdoch, Philippe Dauman and Howard Stringer rocking shorts and short-sleeves isn't the only awkward thing about this year's Sun Valley conference.

The annual Idaho gathering of corporate titans takes place this week as several old media companies are — to use the delicate corporate term —  "in transition."

Also read: Sun Valley Conference Kicks Off With Brian Roberts, Peter Chernin, Bob Iger – and Hulu on the Line

Nowhere are these growing pains more pronounced than in film and television. Of the six major studios, three have just undergone — or are flirting with — enormous changes to their structure and leadership.


>>Last month saw the public and messy departure of Warner Bros. film chief Jeff Robinov after a ill-considered corporate bake-off.

That competition to run Warner Bros. ended with Time Warner head Jeff Bewkes tapping Kevin Tsujihara to run the company over Robinov and TV chief Bruce Rosenblum. Like Robinov, Rosenblum also turned in his employee badge after losing out on the big prize.

>>Sony Corp.’s Kazuo Hirai will hit the tennis court and nature trails while activist investor Daniel Loeb continues to thump the tub for a spin-off of the company's entertainment holdings.

Loeb, whose Third Point Capital owns a big stake in Sony, has previously tinkered with the likes of Yahoo!, where he used both his influence and position to unseat CEO Scott Thompson. Loeb's sway over the struggling electronics company's future is not to be discounted.

>>And Rupert Murdoch has touched down at the scenic ski resort with his sprawling media empire spliced in two. As of last month, his publishing assets have been shunted off into a separate public company, while his more valuable television and film properties have been rechristened 21st Century Fox. It was a decision he long resisted, but one he must now embrace.

The froth of change isn't coincidental, Michael Yoshikami founder and CEO of Destination Wealth Management, told TheWrap. It has to do with the way that companies like Netflix, Facebook and Google are shaking up the old method of making money through ads and ticket sales.

"It's reflective of a change in media in general," he argues. "This is a point of significant disruption for all of the studios, not only in their leadership, but in how they do business. For three of the major studios to be undergoing these changes at the same time is rare, but it's indicative of the tumult in the space."

At Sun Valley, the likes of Bewkes, Murdoch and Hirai will have the opportunity to sip cocktails with Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, Netflix's Reed Hastings, and IAC’s Barry Diller — men who are streaming, sharing and in the process pushing the older forms of media into new ways of doing business.

Whether they like it or not.

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