Media and technology 'won't merge'

Takeovers are back in fashion but, as MTV's president points out, it is very tough for technology companies to turn themselves into media companies

Media and technology will remain separate industries, experts agreed this week, despite talk of convergence and high-profile acquisitions of technology companies by media giants.

Over the last six months, media giants have been increasing their foothold in the digital space: in January, Walt Disney announced its acquisition of Pixar Animation Studios, and last year Rupert Murdoch's News Corp acquired a number of online companies, including gaming company IGN Entertainment and Intermix Media, which owns MySpace.com.

Despite the flurry of corporate activity, Michael Wolf, the president and chief operating office of MTV Networks, does not envision the media and technology industries merging.

"These industries are interdependent but very separate. It's very tough for technology companies to become media companies, even though they aspire to become so. And media companies are not about technology," said Wolf during a roundtable at the Media Summit in New York. "They are at the two ends of the spectrum — they are coming together on one side, but are still very separate."

While many organisations have seen their circulation or viewing figures drop with the advent of the Internet, Wolf said the Web's impact on MTV has been positive.

"The more devices people have, the more experiences they want and the more occasions they have to become an audience. In our company, despite the fact our audience is going online, our ratings are highest ever," he said. "Our series Laguna Beach is available to consumers online, or with their cellphone. The television is not the centre of the universe — it is one piece of a hub."

Other members of the panel agreed that the media and technology industries will stay separate. Geoffrey Dodge, the publisher of BusinessWeek, said there is a distinction between content, which is produced by the media industry and the distribution of content, which is done by the technology industry.

"Content is content — whether it is music, a TV show, business news or information. We are a content provider and have to rely on technology to distribute content. Today we rely on the Internet, television waves, the BlackBerry. They [the media and technology industries] are interdependent," he said.

In the UK, BT has repeatedly denied that it plans to move into the content creation market, even though it is developing an IPTV service that will run over its broadband network.

Dodge admitted that BusinessWeek readers have "migrated" to the Internet. He said the print magazine's circulation is "flat" at around 900,000 readers, although its Web site is now visited by five million unique users.

Andrew Lippman, a senior research scientist at MIT's Media Lab, believes the key issue is whether the distinction between the "creators" and "inventors" of media can be broken down. Lippman said there is a need for more open system, so consumers can also be creators of content.

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