Parsons preaches unity

Tells NAB crowd that broadcasting vs. cable is self-defeating

In an NAB keynote speech as broad-ranging as the company he runs, Richard Parsons, CEO designate for AOL Time Warner, Monday said the digital future is filled with opportunities like interactive TV and video on demand, and dangers like digital piracy and ad-stripping from personal video recorders.

"Our challenge as an industry will be to anticipate, react to and shape the way new methods of distributing with content affecting our business," he said.

Parsons, who replaces the retiring Gerald Levin in a matter of weeks, said: "No matter how digitized content becomes, or how earth-shattering convergence turns out to be, the power and glory of the entertainment industry will always depend on product. On content. On the unique idiosyncratic magic of story telling.

"In case I am not stating the point with sufficient clarity, this is all by way of saying that going forward, people, not technlology will continue to be what counts most."

And technology, Parsons seemed to suggest, holds equal amounts of promise and peril. "Some of these new technologies and the Internet will have a profound effect on our business and will change the existing paradigm.

"But so, too, does technology threaten our business in ways we dare not ignore: Digital piracy and ad-stripping are good examples of what we are faced with already."

Parsons, who at AOL Time Warner built up a reputation for fostering cooperation between the sometime fractious units of four separate corporate fiefdoms, likewise at NAB called on executives to forever bury the historical rift between cable and broadcasting.

"The old notion of two sides permanently feuding in the style of the Hatfields vs. the McCoys is as outdated as it is self-defeating. We all have an interest in increasing the television revenue pie and avoiding unnecessary and counter-productive government interference.

"We do not believe this is a zero sum game where every win on one participant's part means someone else has to lose...there is plenty of opportunity and challenge for all of us, so-called old media and new, for broadcast and online."