The Changing Media Environment: A CEOs Perspective – Phil Kent, Chief Executive Officer, Turner Broadcasting Systems

As part of the 2007 market trends in media forum, chief executive officer of Turner Broadcasting Systems Phil Kent was interviewed by Ali Velshi of CNN. The topic of the interview was the globalization of media and the increasing importance of emerging social media platforms in the globalization process. Kent began by stating that the media industry, of which he is a veteran, was in a marked period of flux at the time of the interview. Companies were very hesitant to invest too much in any one particular trend or technology, since the pace at which those entities were changing and moving forward was rapid.

Kent went on to say that his past as a Hollywood agent gave him a unique insight into the way in which media producers think about their business, from the content to the bottom line. Turner’s strategy for the bidding information boom was to not put too much investment into a discreet digital technology, but rather to make use of advances in digital media for the purpose of aggregating, conglomerating, and generally strengthening the business end. Turner, he said, was casting a very wide net moving forward so that they can effectively pinpoint what will work in the future and what will not. In addition to the linear television networks TNT, TBS, CNN, and Cartoon Network, to name a few, many of the stations now have mobile phone and computer tie-ins to create a multi-faceted media approach.

“One of the key things is, with any brand, a brand has certain attributes. The consumers of that brand have certain expectations coming to it. So, just as CNN delivers immediacy, what we hope is always fairness and balance, unlike people who like to call themselves fair and balanced; immediacy and accuracy, and taking you to where the news is,” said Kent. In such an unstable media climate, in which the very elements of the business itself seemed to be on the verge of changing, it was important to keep an open mind.

Another aspect of the business that was creating a vast amount of change in the general environment was the increase in platforms available for cable television consumers. In a strategy that was similar to his strategy regarding emerging technologies in his own field, Kent believed that doing business with as many of these new platform providers as possible was essential because they wanted to have a deal moving forward with as many consumers as possible, creating a sense of familiarity and brand loyalty. When new technologies or a wealth of new business immediately arrive on the market, Kent says, it is often the knee-jerk reaction of the industry to distrust technology and to view it as nothing more than a disruption of the status quo. This kind of attitude, he says, leads to stagnation and missing important technological advances.