July 11, 2007 / 10:52 PM / 12 years ago

Internet and old media confab seeks peace not war

SUN VALLEY, Idaho (Reuters) - Cooperation, not mutual destruction, is a major theme at this year’s summer gathering of the media and technology elite in Sun Valley.

And the Scandinavian founders of new online video service Joost — Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom — perhaps embody this new spirit best.

Friis and Zennstrom, who once terrified the media industry with file-sharing technology company KaZaa, and then the telecommunications industry with Skype, are first-time guests at Allen & Co’s 25th annual media conference in Idaho.

But Joost has distinguished itself by seeking partnerships with content owners before making any of their shows available. The company landed its first big distribution deal with Viacom Inc just days before Viacom sued Google Inc. and its video-sharing site YouTube for copyright infringement.

Joost does not let its users upload videos, unlike last year’s media darling, YouTube, to the relief of media industry executives assembled here.

“The time in the market is good for traditional media and digital to come together,” Mike Volpi, Joost’s newly appointed chief executive, told Reuters. “Technology has matured to a point where rights can be protected properly.”

The former senior Cisco Systems Inc executive added: “That gives a lot of comfort to media executives worried about their content.”

Volpi said he wanted to find new partners at the conference and connect with prospective advertisers.

The Joost trio replaces last year’s big attraction, YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley, whose wild popularity both terrified and attracted big media.

Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt and co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who are on the guest list, had not arrived by Wednesday afternoon.

The conference, conceived in the early 1980s by banker Herbert Allen as a week-long mingling of Hollywood’s top power brokers, kicked off with a morning session led by Time Warner Inc. Chief Executive Richard Parsons.

It was followed by a session on private equity financing.

“I understood about half of it,” Blake Krikorian, Sling Media’s chief executive, joked about the private equity panel.

He returns this year to mingle with media and tech moguls and to show off a near-final version of a new technology that lets viewers save and send clips of television shows.

“It’s amazing how quickly the industry has started to see the power of what these things can do,” he told Reuters.

The Sling Box is a set top box device that lets viewers watch cable programming on wireless laptops and Smartphones

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Last year, media executives viewed the technology with a measure of trepidation. But Krikorian returns to Sun Valley this year armed with a deal with broadcaster CBS Corp and the National Hockey League to offer some programming on the new service, which is expected to make its debut in September.

Krikorian plans to give content owners such as CBS an opportunity to forge new advertising revenue opportunities. For instance, CBS would be able to control advertising sold on Sling’s new Clip + Sling service.

“If they fight it, these things can be things that really threaten their business. YouTube has caught their attention. They’ve seen what can happen. They build all this traffic off the backs of their content and gives back absolutely nothing,” said Krikorian.

Second time attendee Martin Varsavsky, chief executive of FON, a company that lets users share their wireless Internet service, summed up the advantages of attending Sun Valley.

“People see you again. They know you,” he said. “A lot of this is about cooperation rather than fighting.”

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