Pittman: Back to bottom line

May 7, 2001  •  Post A Comment

The economy may have slowed in the past two quarters, but Robert Pittman, co-chief operating officer of AOL Time Warner, the world’s largest media company, doesn’t consider this the worst of times.

“I don’t view these quarters as being the toughest quarters I’ve lived through,” he said in his keynote speech at the first Upfront Television Advertising Summit, sponsored by Electronic Media and Advertising Age.

“The tough quarters were about 18 months to two years ago, when there was helium in the world,” Mr. Pittman said, “and people were not abiding by laws of business. You know, at AOL we were charging $21.95 for our service. We had [competitors] giving it away for free. … Today at least everybody’s on the same page, whether a buyer or seller.”

The traditional bottom-line laws of business may once again be in force, but that doesn’t mean the landscape isn’t changing. At AOL Time Warner, for example, Mr. Pittman said, the smallest revenue stream comes from advertising, the largest is from subscriptions.

Asked whether consolidation means fewer voices will be heard in the media, he replied, “There are a lot of ways to get to the consumer. And by the way, if you’ve got an important message, you can just go right on the Internet yourself.”

To describe the future media landscape, Mr. Pittman pointed to the world of 30 years ago, when hemlines went up and down to the dictates of a few designers. “Today, it’s very fragmented [with] lots of personal style.”

Today’s consumers are more demanding and more impatient, and they have access to many more media choices. To reach them, Mr. Pittman said, the “key is going to be coordination.”