February 7, 2007 4:38 AM PST
Is Barry Diller ready for foray into Web video?
Diller and Murdoch, once friendly enough to collaborate on building Fox Broadcasting into the nation's fourth major television network, are scheduled to speak at the Media Summit conference here over the next two days.
While Diller, now the chairman and CEO of InterActiveCorp, is due to give the keynote address Wednesday, Murdoch, his former boss, plans to address attendees Thursday.
That the two men share the marquee is symbolic. It was 15 years ago that Diller walked away from Fox Broadcasting and the entertainment business after a falling-out with Murdoch. Years later, he would form IAC, a company critics say is a mishmash of search engines, online travel and retail sites. Among its offerings are Ask.com, Ticketmaster division Citysearch.com.
Some observers expect Diller to soon branch off in yet another direction: online video. A former chairman of Parmount Pictures and once one of Hollywood's most influential executives, Diller has signaled his readiness to get back to his roots.
Almost 15 years after turning his back on the entertainment industry, the things that interests Diller most now are "programming ideas," he told British newspaper The Guardian in October.
Diller's conglomerate has begun snatching up media companies. IAC last year took a 25 percent stake in music discovery site iLike.com and acquired humor site CollegeHumor. The company is expected to soon team up with the Web publication HuffingtonPost.com to launch a satirical news site.
IAC has also named Michael Jackson, the former president of cable channel USA Networks, as president of programming. The question is, what programming are Diller and Jackson looking for?
In October 2005, Diller told a conference gathering in San Francisco that his company would someday be involved with "producing, financing and distributing filmed digital product." He said at the time that IAC would make movies ranging in length from 30 minutes to two hours.
So don't look for Diller's conglomerate to make a Murdoch-esque offer for a MySpace.com or YouTube wannabe. Diller has commented in recent months about how social-networking sites don't interest him. (IAC scooped up the now-defunct social-networking site Zero Degrees in 2004.) He described MySpace as a "lollipop" business.
"I'm respectful of the day's flavor," Diller told The Guardian. "It's not an area I have a particular affinity for."
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