'Making it up'
"We've been spending a lot of time trying to get from zero to 60 in 10 seconds," he said. "I'm not a technologist; there's people far smarter than me working on this. ... My view is we should move slowly. ... We want commercials that are effective to the advertiser, that [don't] drive people away from the site." He added that the goal is to invent a new model in the increasingly unstructured jungle of web advertising. "We're making it up as we go along. I'm perfectly happy to take the time to get it right rather than rush."
Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman, Mr. Chernin's co-panelist from an earlier CEO discussion on the state of the cable industry, then weighed in on his own ad plans for the other highly anticipated YouTube rival, Joost.
"We're starting with a pretty robust offering across the brands and networks," he said. "We'll refresh the content on a monthly basis, so we'll see how the platform develops on both ends. Technically, it looked great in beta so I'm anxious to see how it develops when it goes into wide distribution."
While intellectual property and online content were hot topics, acquisitions were another main point of interest during the main panel discussion. Time Warner CEO Richard Parsons said that although he never went to business school, he learned two things from a friend who gave him a brief rundown: "scale and niche," he said.
"Cable is a scale business, and in order to compete with the forces we have to compete in our business ... you need scale," he said. "I'm a believer there will always be entrepreneurs, always someone who has a new idea, ultimately, to compete in a world where it's telecommunications services and not just video, voice and data and mobile. What I'm anticipating is continuing consolidation in this industry using currency the cable operators understand and appreciate."
Mum about Dow Jones
Mr. Chernin, perhaps the most acquisition-happy of all the execs as of late, deflected questions from press about Dow Jones ("What has been reported heretofore was reasonably accurate; I would prefer to keep it private") and Photobucket ("No comment"), but did incorporate News Corp.'s recent $188 million acquisition of mobile-content company Jamba into his discussion about the confusion surrounding the mobile arena.
"No one knows what it looks like," he said. "It's like the cable business in the late '70s right now. In 1977, no one knew there was going to be an ESPN, Discovery or a Lifetime. What happens is hopefully smart people get into it and begin experimenting with different content forms. When we bought Jamba, they had a business model that has fairly high-priced subscriptions," he said.
But even though Mr. Chernin has control over the largest player in the mobile industry right now, the overall business is still sink or swim. "Those people who do a good job will flourish and those who don't, won't. We're in the very first pitch of the first inning and we're all trying to figure it out."