Services & Software

Viacom CEO: 'Great' content is king

Despite talk that content has become a commodity, Viacom Chief Philippe Dauman argues that great content is never a commodity.

HALF MOON BAY, Calif.--If content is king, then technology is its queen.

Viacom's CEO Philippe Dauman, who spoke here Tuesday at the Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference, said that despite talk that content has become a commodity (i.e., reality TV shows), it's quite the opposite. Great content is never a commodity, he said, and the Internet and mobile communications are helping Viacom broaden its reach internationally and among younger audiences online and via mobile devices.

"If you have a great brand supported by great content, there has never been a better time to reach more consumers, and reach them in a much deeper way than you ever could," Dauman said during a panel that included Ivan Seidenberg, CEO of Verizon Communications.

"We have vast libraries of content, and we are able to find new audiences thanks to emerging distribution. People in Asia are discovering 'Beavis and Butt-head' and it hasn't been in the United States for seven years," he added. "For us, it's about finding more and more places to put it."

His comments come against the backdrop of Viacom's $1 billion copyright infringement lawsuit against Google for unauthorized distribution of its content. During the panel, Vint Cerf, Google's chief Internet evangelist, asked Dauman and Seidenberg whether content and distribution of content will be separate going forward, considering that in the past the two had been combined at some companies.

Dauman answered that Viacom--which owns MTV, Nickelodeon, and Paramount Pictures, among 340 properties--is a content producer and it does not own distribution. (Its cable properties are distributed through satellite and other channels, he said.) He added: "We don't just reproduce content for (other channels), we create special content for wireless and Internet," he said.

Seidenberg added: "It's correct that the development and creation will be separate from distribution. But it doesn't mean the economic interest has to be separate."

For its part, Seidenberg said that Verizon is all about the network, having invested heavily in new fiber infrastructure for telecommunications and wireless. Verizon has also had to fight the notion that the network is a commodity, with the rise of ads for free voice calls.

"We've invested some money to generate a new market for our company. Telco is less than half of our business and the other is wireless. When you put the two together it's very powerful, it gives us a platform to distribute anything Viacom would offer," he said.

"We tear down any entry barrier to get to digital content."