Conglom topper shares dim hopes for SOPA's revival

Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman bemoaned the “mob mentality” that sunk legislation like SOPA protecting content owners in a Q&A on Tuesday at the D:Dive into Media conference.

“There was a lot of rhetoric–unfortunate rhetoric–and misinformation put out there that focused on the SOPA part of it,” he said. “It became almost religious dogma that any legislation that might emerge through the process built around the Senate bill would have broken the Internet, created censorship around the world and the fact of the matter is I think the bill that would have emerged would have been very reasonable.”

The conglom chieftain made his remarks just weeks after the SOPA/PIPA proposals lost steam in the wake of a considerable outcry online led by Internet giants including Wikipedia and Google. As a result, it’s doubtful new legislation will get much traction this year, according to Dauman.

Dauman noted that objectionable portions of SOPA/PIPA would have been weeded out in tmie. “If you have a legitimate argument with a particular provision–DNS blocking was taken out of both bills before–it should be discussed rationally and then you get legislation.”

The Viacom CEO called on the content and technology industries to get on the same page given their mutual interests. “We should be working together.”

Dauman went so far as to suggest that the piracy that the proposed legislation could have curbed has played a role in the decision for Viacom-owned studio Paramount to make fewer movies.

Dauman, who was introduced as “Philly D” in a pretaped segment featuring Snooki, star of “Jersey Shore” on Viacom-owned cable network, touched on a wide variety of content-related subjects in discussion with AllThingsD editor Peter Kafka.

Dauman bluntly assessed the struggles of the studios to get momentum going in the premium VOD window but said that further experimentation was necessary. The sensitivities of establishing a new window just months after a theatrical run were not lost on him given how important it is to driving interest for movies all the way through its lifecycle.

“If theaters go away, then you don’t have the promotional window,” he said. ” We want to preserve the theatrical window for now. Right now there doesn’t appear there’s a good substituion for that window.”

He referenced his conglom’s cable channels, which he characterized as costing distributors less than the growing number of sports networks despite the fact they drove more viewing time. Dauman said the CEO of a major distributor who he declined to identify told him that half of his subscriber base didn’t watch any sports networks, according to its set-top-box data.

“I do believe premium content should command premium value,” said Dauman. “But there’s a fine line where if the balance is out of whack, then an adjustment needs to occur. And the market will dictate that.”

Dauman described the international markets as key to the growth of Viacom, particularly given how digital platforms are driving new buyers even in the pay TV window, including Skye Deutscheland and Lovefilm. “We now are at the point where you have online distributors that economically are becoming as important, and in many ways more important, than incumbent distributors.”

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