Diller backs Obama in Hong Kong

InterActiveCorp CEO speaks at Asia convention

HONG KONG — InterActiveCorp topper Barry Diller Wednesday threw his weight behind the presidential ambitions of Barack Obama.

During an on-stage interview at the Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia convention in Hong Kong on Wednesday, Diller spoke of his long amity with Republican nominee John McCain, his three-year friendship with Obama, and having provided campaign funds to both candidates.

But having said that neither will be better for his business, he declared his support for the Democratic candidate.

“The wonderful thing about this election is that it will change the current administration and we can only improve from there. So I’m going to vote for Obama,” said Diller. “Obama offers the best chance for real change, and for a really aspirational America, an America that existed really before this current administration.”

Diller dedicated most of his time in front of execs addressing the current global financial crisis, the opportunities it throws up, especially in Asia, and change being brought by digital media.

“We’re in unpredictable times, there is no antecedent, its duration and depth no-one can predict. All we know is that it will be a contraction,” he said, but added that after years of over-expansion in many economic areas a contraction is necessary. He praised governments for responding quickly and in a concerted fashion, suggesting that might allow a “soft landing.”

“IAC has billions of dollars in cash, no debt and therefore this can only be seen as an opportunity, but I won’t gloat, it would be unseemly,” he said.

“China is going to be the biggest market in the world relatively soon,” Diller said, and pointed to opportunities to acquire cheaper assets after the Chinese stock market saw some of the biggest falls in the world. “Yes, sure we are,” he said when asked directly if he was seeking acquisitions in China.

He reminded bizzers that he previously had a significant interest in an embryonic Chinese home shopping operation, but said that the time was too early and that he gave up. “But over the next five years several will develop,” he said.

“Priorities for us (in Asia) are China, then Japan, Korea and then India,” Diller said.

As captain of an online empire Diller was unsurprisingly upbeat about prospects for Internet as a media.

“Everybody is increasing their ads online. The reason is because the audience is there,” he said. He said the Internet is trackable “to the second,” and that the return from a dollar spent online can be known precisely, unlike TV or print.

“Magazines do not stand a chance long term,” against the Internet, he said.

And the former Paramount boss had enough ammunition to fire off against the film biz as well.

Explaining his current unbundling of IAC, he said that companies with multiple business lines are “not efficient” and said the motion picture business has “mostly gone that way.”

“Motion pictures are now a long way down the list of activities of these agglomerated businesses,” he said, adding the American movie biz is “quite dull” and “overly fixated on blockbusters” that cost over $100 million to make and $100 million to market.

He finished off by suggesting that the Internet will change every aspect of the media business and that choke points controlled by today’s media empires will be swept away.

“Scarcity is being replaced by plenty. This ability to press a button and publish to the world is going to change everything… The historic methods of finance and distribution are going to change.”