“I’m going to piss a lot of people off,” Ari Emanuel told the AllThingsD conference tonight. And in a room of tech execs, the WME boss kept his word. “Where Google decides to play in this piracy issue, plus Verizon, AT&T, is very crucial for our industry and I’m concerned they’re going to wait it out,” Emanuel to told AllThingsD co-founders Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher in front of a packed house. “If they don’t stop the stealing of content I think it is going to be a problem.” Emanuel, who promised not to swear or hit anyone, was very clear to name names and point out where in the “pipes” he sees the theft of his clients’ and Hollywood’s content coming from. “We need Northern California to figure out how to keep our intellectual property from being stolen. If Google was in China, and their stuff was being stolen, they would leave China, right?” Emanuel didn’t miss the opportunity to chastise Silicon Valley and their industry for allowing the stealing of content and the scuttling of antipiracy legislation. “Ask Google, ask Verizon why they haven’t come to the table?”
Asked in the Q&A what exactly he’d like Google to do, Emanuel said “I’d like them to start filtering when people are stealing our product internationally, that’s their responsibility.” In a heated exchange with one questioner, Emanuel made his point emphatically, telling the guy to sit down to wide applause. “Stealing is a bad thing,” bellowed Emanuel to the crowd’s sudden approval.
Inevitably the question of WME’s recent deal to bring Silver Lake Partners onboard with a 31% non-controlling minority interest in the company came up. Emanuel said that WME has “been increasingly interested in tech.” Sitting on the same stage as Apple CEO Tim Cook the day before, Emanuel added, that “we’ve been buying and investing in startups. When we merged a couple years ago, we kind of shifted the whole focus in terms of where things were going, and we’ve spent a lot of time up in Silicon Valley, trying to figure it out.” All that effort “got Silver Lake interested” and that’s what started them and WME talking.
Piracy and content might have been the heart of Emanuel’s sometimes pugilistic appearance at AllThingsD, but it wasn’t they weren’t the only topics of discussion. Mossberg and Swisher drew Emanuel out of on what he thought was going right in the entertainment industry. When you think about the entertainment business, you can’t just think about movies,” the WME co-CEO cautioned the audience, “we’re in the music business with concerts, the author business, we have 230 shows on TV.” And TV got Emanuel going. “The television businesses’ economics are better than its ever been,” Emanuel said. “I think this is the best business in the world and I’m betting heavily on it.” Asked by Mossberg and Swisher if he was strictly traditional in his approach, Emanuel responded he knew the audiences are there because of the success of YouTube and other new platforms. “I’m OK with them watching it on Nexflix as long as we figure out the economics and I believe premium content is more valuable than two dogs on a couch.”
The 10th annual AllThingsD conference runs through tomorrow.