John Malone Talks ‘Fabulous’ FAANG Influence: ‘They’ve Changed the World’

SUN VALLEY, Idaho — There’s no fighting the global muscle of the tech giants that are so thoroughly disrupting the traditional media business. That was the early morning wisdom shared Wednesday by Liberty Media chairman John Malone, who spoke to reporters as he headed in for a Q&A at the Allen & Co. conference at the Sun Valley mountain resort.

Malone, a cable industry pioneer and renowned media investor, called the global platforms built by the FAANG companies (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google) “fabulous” and said they are forcing old-school entertainment companies to adapt their businesses in a huge way.

“They’ve changed the world. They’re the disruptors now. We were the disruptors in our youth,” Malone said, referring to the early days of the cable industry.

“We have to figure out how to position ourselves to adapt to a changing world that they’re changing. You’re not going to fight ‘em. You better accept them as a fact and then adjust your positioning,” he said.

Malone pointed to his own history of zigging and zagging out of various businesses as an example of his dictum that media businesses need to “stay nimble” and think global. Malone built Tele-Communications Inc. into the nation’s largest cable operator before selling the company to AT&T in 1999. A few years later, Liberty Media took control of DirecTV. But by 2013, Liberty was out of DirecTV and made a big investment in cable operator Charter Communications.

“My biggest investments were building the cable business and then selling the cable business and getting into the satellite business, and then when the internet became so important, getting out of the satellite business and back into the cable business,” he said. “You just have to be flexible.”

Missteps along the way are inevitable.

“All of these tectonic changes — some of them are tailwinds and some of them are headwinds,” he said. “You’ve got to stay nimble and figure out how to position yourself so you have more tailwinds than headwinds. They always say Ted Williams batted .400 in his best years. You’re not going to get it all right (but) as long as you get the big ones pretty right.”

Malone offered some advice for the CEOs in thick of navigating the digital transition: “You essentially evaluate what you’re in. You have to diversify to reduce your risk.”

Malone said that high-level conferences such as Allen & Co. are welcome part of that process. “You get a lot of ideas that you normally don’t think about. And you get to catch up with a bunch of old friends,” he said.

As for the persistent rumors about Charter being a buyer or seller, Malone said the forecast is bright for the company that ranks as the No. 2 cable operator behind Comcast, following Charter’s 2016 acquisition of Time Warner Cable.

“They’re growing. They’re sticking to their knitting. They kick a lot of tires,” Malone said. “Right now the focus is on building out their broadband infrastructure. Their valuation is strong and their growth is good. They’re very cash-flow accretive. It’s a great business.”

Popular on Variety

More Biz

  • Ann Sarnoff Warner Bros

    Ann Sarnoff Formally Takes Reins of Warner Bros. as CEO

    The Ann Sarnoff era at Warner Bros. has begun. Sarnoff formally took the reins as Warner Bros. chair-CEO on Thursday, two months after she was appointed to the post. Sarnoff told employees in a memo that she has been impressed by the company’s track record during the past year amid a period of upheaval for [...]

  • Former movie producer Harvey Weinstein (L)

    Harvey Weinstein to Be Arraigned on New Indictment

    Harvey Weinstein is set to appear in court on Monday for an arraignment on a new indictment, the Manhattan D.A.’s office said Thursday. Prosecutors announced last week that they would seek a fresh indictment, which would allow actress Annabella Sciorra to testify at Weinstein’s trial. The move came after Justice James Burke ruled on Aug. [...]

  • AI Technology David Beckham

    How AI Tech Is Changing Dubbing, Making Stars Like David Beckham Multilingual

    David Beckham does not speak Arabic, Hindi or Mandarin. But when the soccer legend starred in a PSA for malaria awareness this spring, he effortlessly switched among these and six other languages, thanks to cutting-edge technology that could soon change how Hollywood localizes its movies and TV shows. The PSA in question was produced with technology [...]

  • Eminem’s Publisher Sues Spotify, Claiming Copyright

    Eminem’s Publisher Sues Spotify, Claiming Massive Copyright Infringement

    Eminem’s publishing company Eight Mile Style filed a major copyright infringement lawsuit against Spotify late Thursday, claiming that the streaming giant has no license to host about 250 of Eminem’s songs, while also taking aim at the Music Modernization Act, the federal law enacted last year to improve royalty payments for songwriters. The news was [...]

  • iQIYI headquarters building in Beijing

    China’s iQIYI in Talks for Indonesia Expansion

    Chinese streaming firm iQIYI is in negotiations to expand further into Southeast Asia through a venture with Indonesia’s Media Nusantara Citra. iQIYI announced its first step outside Chinese-majority territories in June, when it revealed a linkup in Malaysia with pay-TV leader Astro. It also operates in Taiwan. In April, the company said that it planned [...]

  • Spotify logo is presented on a

    Spotify Triples Free-Trial Period on Premium Service

    Spotify today extended the free-trial period for its Premium service from one month to three, tripling the amount of time listeners can take full advantage of the streaming giant’s offerings without paying for them. According to the announcement, the offer is “always-on/not limited time,” and will roll out across Spotify Premium plans globally: Individual and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content