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Media moguls mix with tech startups

US media moguls are taking to heart the old adage: Keep your friends close but your enemies even closer.

india Updated: Jul 14, 2006 10:25 IST

US media moguls are taking to heart the old adage: Keep your friends close but your enemies even closer.

At an annual summer retreat in Sun Valley, Idaho, this week, big media gatekeepers invited a handful of technology start-ups into their midst -- welcoming the very executives who threaten to upset traditional business models.

Leaders of Time Warner Inc., News Corp. and Viacom Inc. mingled with a new wave of entrepreneurs, who are proving increasingly successful at capturing the attention of younger viewers and taking advertising dollars from big media.

The warm reception lavished on companies like YouTube Inc and Sling Media Inc appears to reflect an admission in the media industry that survival requires doing business with those whose interests may not immediately line up with theirs.

"It's potentially disruptive. But they also create more opportunity," Time Warner Chief Executive Richard Parsons told Reuters on Thursday on the sidelines of the mogul-fest organized by investment bank Allen & Co.

Chad Hurley, chief executive of YouTube, which lets users share and post their favorite digital videos online, was spotted in discussions with media executives including CBS Corp Chief Executive Leslie Moonves at the sprawling resort grounds.

Hurley said he did not view his business as disruptive to the television networks, from which some users steal videos to post onto YouTube.

"We're creating a new market for their content," said Hurley, 29, a former PayPal employee whose shoulder-length hair and easy going demeanor made him seem out of place among the old school corporate executives at the gathering.

When asked if YouTube had received any buyout offers during the week, a time-honored conference tradition, Hurley did not answer directly and noted a lot of rumors were out there.

"We're not for sale and we're concentrated on building the company," he added.

YouTube is among a new crop of media and technology companies whose innovative products are rattling older, more established companies.

Hurley is joined by Blake Krikorian, founder and CEO of Sling Media, whose Slingbox set top box can pipe cable or satellite TV from the living room to just about any laptop computer or handheld device with a fast Internet connection.

Krikorian said his company, whose product already has a rabid fan base "well into the six figures," aimed to expand its business, perhaps pitching it to advertisers as another way to reach viewers.

"It's not old versus new media -- We're talking about the same customer," Krikorian told reporters.

Martin Varsavsky, CEO of FON, a company that seeks to stitch together a network of wireless access from users willing to share their high-speed connections, was another executive, who roamed the conference.

"The reception has been very good," Varsavsky said.