Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film and Television annual Steed Symposium included past and present media heavy-hitters on a panel at Creative Artists Agency’s Ray Kurtzman Theater. The subject was ‘The New Disruptors’ about today’s showbiz gamechangers. The panel included past Big Media disruptors like Michael Fuchs, chairman/CEO of HBO (1984-1995) and former chairman of the Warner Music Group as well as Warren Lieberfarb, the former president of Warner Home Video; and today’s disruptors like Ross Levinsohn, EVP of Yahoo!’s Americas region, and Sara Pollack, YouTube’s senior marketing manager. Film producer and former United Artists chief Paula Wagner moderated.
First up with a comment was Fuchs, honored earlier in the day on the LMU campus for pioneering original content on HBO. (He joked that he’s an ‘old disruptor’.) Fuchs was sharply critical of traditional Hollywood companies. “The big old media companies don’t innovate. Fox buys My Space, it dies,” he said, to laughter. He praised Lieberfarb’s spearheading an entertainment industry standard for the DVD as one of the few times that an established media behemoth had disrupted the status quo.
Lieberfarb in turn took old media to task for its lack of innovation. “The real question is, in media companies today, where are the Sarnoffs and the Paleys?” he said.
Levinsohn answered that question by noting how, “in the traditional media, there aren’t disruptors anymore.” He said too many media leaders are “fearful, not fearless. Who’s taking those chances? Google, Apple. Silicon Valley is fearless when it comes to disrupting. Hollywood is fearless when it comes to creating beautiful programming… Those who figure out both will be successful.”
Pollack said YouTube viewers want both great Hollywood movies and “the next dog on a skateboard, because that’s the beauty of the site.”
Pollack, Levinsohn, Allen, and Weiler all agreed that new platforms provide a “golden age” for writers to experiment. Allen argued against the notion that consumers are being isolated by watching entertainment on a variety of devices instead of in a movie theater. “Home viewing can be more social. Witness the use of two screens,” he said, referring to people who are watching their TV while perhaps holding a Twitter conversation about it online.
Fuchs however, said he wasn’t so sure, criticizing today’s media climate as “technological intoxication” adding: “I don’t want my kids to have their face in technology all the time. I’m worried about that.”