With her father in the front row, Shari Redstone was front and center Wednesday, describing her growing role at Viacom and CBS to a Gotham media confab.
In one of her first major public appearances since ascending to the position of vice chair, she said she expects to assume a “bigger role” in the near future — possibly taking on strategic or legislative positions.
Entertainment biz has been on tenterhooks over Shari Redstone’s involvement ever since the Viacom split. The company cleaved into CBS and Viacom, but father Sumner Redstone still sits atop both boards, and National Amusements has a controlling stake in both companies.
Shari’s involvement has been viewed as the X factor in how separately the companies will run –and how involved the Redstones will be. The weight of her vice chair title at both CBS and Viacom depends on how the boards — and Redstone herself — choose to define it.
She told those gathered at the Bank of America event that over the past few months she’s been more vocal on strategic matters, an area that presumably includes Par’s decision to acquire DreamWorks.
“Since the split, I’ve spent lots of time working with the boards,” she said. “I would hope, in time, to take on an even bigger role with Tom (Freston) and Les (Moonves).”
Redstone said she can envision a number of roles for herself, including representing the company in Washington on regulatory issues.
She did not address a lawsuit filed by brother Brent Redstone, in which he alleges that his sister and father conspired to marginalize him. Brent Redstone seeks to dissolve National Amusements.
But she did lay out a plan for National Amusements theaters to lead the charge in reinvigorating the struggling exhib biz by turning theaters into what she called “community entertainment destinations.”
“We have to get more creative about satisfying (consumers’) appetite,” she said.
Plan includes appealing to more upscale moviegoers with bars specializing in martinis as well as pricey premium seating, while video arcades and other interactive entertainment serve children and families.
Redstone took an unusually strong position against shrinking windows, suggesting that in some cases they could even be expanded to seven months for pics that appeal to older viewers.
“We need to stop commoditizing the movie,” she said.
Redstone also stressed theater expansion — the company has been building aggressively in countries including Russia — and revived the idea of theaters showing live sports.
Though some exhibs have failed with the notion in the past, she said a Gotham venue recently succeeded in luring New York-based Red Sox fans for the screening of games in what replicates the ballpark experience, right down to a policy of halting beer sales in the seventh inning.