×

Steve Case: Media M&A Frenzy Reflects Original ‘Vision’ of AOL-Time Warner Merger

SUN VALLEY, Idaho — Shari Redstone didn’t stop to talk. Nor did Brian Roberts or Rupert Murdoch offer any crumbs to reporters waiting Tuesday afternoon along the edge of the duck pond outside the entrance of the Sun Valley Lodge, where media and tech moguls are gathering this week for the annual Allen & Co. conference in this mountainous resort area.

The business world is waiting with bated breath for any hints of the mood inside the conference this year, what with so many high-powered CEOs in various stages of battle coming together in close quarters for inspiration from panels and speakers and a little perspiration via outdoor recreation options.

One CEO who did engage with the journos held at a distance from the invitation-only confab was Steve Case, the former AOL chief who now heads investment firm Revolution. With AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner still weeks old, Case opined that the media landscape is finally starting to reflect some of the vision that drove the deal widely considered one of the worst — if not the worst — mega merger in modern history, AOL’s union with Time Warner, completed in January 2001.

“Some of the things we were talking about then are happening, in terms of streaming. I’m not surprised that there’s another round of big mergers where companies are trying to position themselves for a future where consumers have more choice and more control and more convenience,” Case said. “It was clear it was going to happen. It’s taken longer than most of us thought before it did happen.”

Case was quick to acknowledge that the AOL-Time Warner merger was undone by “disappointing” execution. But he defended the vision that brought the pioneering internet service provider and content company together in the months before the first wave dot-com bubble burst.

“The idea of it made sense. The vision of it made sense. The execution wasn’t what we were hoping for,” he said. “The idea is important, the vision is important but ultimately it comes down to execution. That means (focusing on) priorities and people. It’s not just (about) what’s possible.

He cited a quote attributed to Thomas Edison that has helped him put the AOL-Time Warner experience into perspective: “Vision without execution is hallucination.”

Nearly 20 years later, AT&T is now absorbing a smaller Time Warner, Case noted, which should help make it a more manageable process. And AT&T leaders will surely make an effort to learn from Time Warner’s history.

“It’s 20 years later. Everybody’s wiser, having watched some of the things we tried to do and weren’t able to do. Time Warner is now a much leaner company….It will be a little easier for them now than it was 20 years ago, but sure, there’s going to be challenges.”

More TV

  • MMA Alters Faces of Asia Sports

    MMA Alters Faces of Asian Sports Broadcasting

    Bruce Lee was ahead of the curve by about four decades when he predicted back in the early 1970s that combat sports would one day take the world by storm. Hong Kong’s favorite son had encouraged his own students to mix up the styles of martial arts they were being trained in — to combine kung fu [...]

  • Variety Kit Harington Game of Thrones

    Kit Harington on How 'Game of Thrones' Mirrors Real-World Politics

    In Variety‘s March 19 cover story, Kit Harington opens up about the final season of “Game of Thrones” and growing into adulthood as part of the biggest show on television. In a conversation in London in December, Harington opened up about the similarities between the series’ politics and our own. “I think it’s always been about [...]

  • Chris O'Dowd

    TV News Roundup: Chris O'Dowd to Star in 'Twilight Zone' Episode

    In today’s roundup, The CW has released two clips from the upcoming “Riverdale” special “Heathers: The Musical,” and Chris O’Dowd will star in an episode of “The Twilight Zone.”  CASTING Chris O’Dowd will star in CBS All Access’ rebooted “The Twilight Zone” episode titled “The Blue Scorpion.” The series will premiere with two episodes on [...]

  • Kevin Tsujihara

    Kevin Tsujihara's Ouster Kicks Off a Week of Major Disruption in the Media Business

    The sudden ouster of Warner Bros. Entertainment chief Kevin Tsujihara kicked off what is likely to go down as one of the most extraordinary weeks in Hollywood history, spelling enormous turmoil and transition across the media landscape. In addition to the news about Tsujihara, which comes amid a wider shake-up of leadership at AT&T’s WarnerMedia, [...]

  • Wendy Williams Sober Living House

    Wendy Williams Reveals She's Been Staying in a Sober-Living House

    Wendy Williams, during an emotional monologue on her talk show on Tuesday, revealed through tears that she has been staying at a sober-living house. “So you know me for being a very open and truthful person,” she began the segment on “The Wendy Williams Show,” fighting through tears. “And I’ve got more to the story [...]

  • Hong Kong Industry Executives Seek Clarity

    FilMart: Hong Kong Industry Executives Plead for Clarity on Mainland Chinese Tax Policies

    At a time of heightened scrutiny of tax affairs in China’s entertainment sector, even industry veterans in Hong Kong are struggling to figure out how to operate in the new financial environment and pleading for more clarity from the Chinese government. Hong Kong produces about 60 films a year, three-quarters of which are typically co-productions [...]

  • Michael Jackson R Kelly

    'Leaving Neverland,' 'Surviving R. Kelly' Composers on How They Scored Sexual Abuse Docs

    How do you put music to child sexual abuse — especially if the accused predators are musical icons? That’s the challenge composers Chad Hobson and Nathan Matthew David faced as they scored HBO’s “Leaving Neverland” and Lifetime’s “Surviving R. Kelly,” respectively. The documentaries are built around interviews with the alleged victims of Michael Jackson (two [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content