B’cast pep rally

Don't fear 'new media,' Redstone tells NAB

LAS VEGAS — Viacom chairman-CEO Sumner Redstone opened the National Assn. of Broadcasters confab here Monday with a rallying cry for “old” media.

“We don’t need to reinvent ourselves,” he said. “We have what we need to succeed. No one has (our) resources, our reach, our distribution strength, our share.”

Redstone asserted that “broadcasting is not dying or collapsing — it is as compelling now as it’s ever been. We are in an opportunity age.”

Emphasizing that broadcasting revenues and profits dwarf what is being earned on the Web, by so-called “new media,” Redstone noted that the three-hour Super Bowl recently raked in more ad dollars than the leading dot-com collected over all of last year.

Never considered a major player in the broadcasting game while it focused on its cable channels (MTV and Nickelodeon, among others), Viacom is currently ramping up its broadcast efforts as it readies the completion of its merger with CBS and its takeover of UPN.

Once the CBS merger closes sometime this year, the deal is expected to give Viacom $11 billion in ad revenues, Redstone said, far more than any dot-com is ever likely to generate.

Global to local

But, while he disparaged the Web’s chances of displacing broadcasters, Redstone advised his listeners to use the Web more to to reach auds and build brands. Viacom’s MTV and Nickelodeon, for example, have transformed themselves into major online brands.

Redstone’s comments came after NAB prexy and CEO Edward Fritts gave a chest-thumping state of the industry report, saying: “Internet companies can’t aggregate an audience. Dot-com companies want what broadcasters provide. We fill a need, and filling a need makes successful businesses. Broadcasting stands before a door that is opening, not closing.”

Despite threats from emerging technologies, Fritts said that “life is good. Radio is hot, TV is growing.” However problems between NAB and national broadcasters (NBC and Fox have ankled the organization) still exist.

And the org is upset with Washington’s deployment of digital TV.

A “dithering and indecisive government has failed” to guide the process of transitioning analog to digital, Fritts said.

New radio services

On the radio front, Fritts said the deployment of satellite radio services from XM Satellite Radio and Sirius will create 200 more competitors for traditional stations. And, he said, the organization is trying to preserve the quality of radio broadcasts from low-power FM signals. “I don’t know what’s more fuzzy: static or the FCC’s thinking on this issue,” he quipped.

Also part of the morning’s festivities, Frank Bennack Jr., prexy and CEO of broadcasting, publishing and new-media giant Hearst Corp., won NAB’s Distinguished Service Award.

More than 105,000 people are expected to attend the NAB convention, which runs through Thursday.

The NAB represents more than 5,600 local radio stations and over 1,100 TV stations across the U.S.

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