Media chiefs ponder future at Sun Valley conference

SUN VALLEY, Idaho (Reuters) - Guests at this year’s Sun Valley media conference are grappling with questions about technology and the Web that could determine their survival, though some are putting a braver face on it than others.

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Walt Disney Co Chief Executive Robert Iger, who arrived on Tuesday, shrugged off questions from reporters about how the media company can plan a sustainable strategy to bring its TV shows and entertainment to the Web.

“People are going to pay for content,” Iger said, before stepping into his sport utility vehicle at the Sun Valley Lodge in Idaho on the first day of the event hosted by boutique investment bank Allen & Co. “We’re not concerned about that.”

Iger is one of more than 250 media chieftains, technology executives, money managers, sports figures and other influential people who are gathering this week for the 27th Sun Valley media and technology conference.

The conference will feature morning panel discussions, and executives will roam the grounds and potentially discuss doing big deals and acquisitions that has made Sun Valley famous as a “summer camp” for the media world.

One question confronting Disney, along with fellow media conglomerates from Viacom Inc to Time Warner Inc to News Corp, is how to develop a way to bring their programing online where more people want to see it.

The challenge is doing it in a way that will not gut the valuable advertising deals that they get on TV and elsewhere, and also will not erode lucrative relationships that they have with cable operators and other distributors.

Another guest arriving at the Sun Valley Lodge that day had a darker assessment. Blake Krikorian, co-founder of Sling Media, said that might prove tougher than they think. The Slingbox lets viewers watch TV shows at any time from anywhere using computers, smartphones and other devices.

“The established players have been a bit asleep at the wheel for the past couple of years,” Krikorian said.

He compared some traditional media efforts, including the “TV Everywhere” effort by Time Warner and Comcast Corp to make programing available online to paying cable subscribers, as trying to “put the genie back in the bottle.”

Other executives who pulled into the lodge on Tuesday declined to speak to reporters. They included people who will play a front-and-center role in the debate over the future of media and the Internet, such as Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman.

Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and investment guru Warren Buffett also showed up on Tuesday, as did former eBay CEO Meg Whitman who is in the race for California governor.

Luminaries expected to arrive later in the week include News Corp Chief Rupert Murdoch and, in the form of some sports entertainment starpower, basketball’s Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James.

Reporting by Robert MacMillan. Additional reporting by Alexei Oreskovic: Editing by Valerie Lee