Barry Diller Regrets Newsweek Buy, Has Low Expectations for NewsBeast
You have to give Barry Diller points for directness.
Diller, who's currently battling the networks in the legal system over his Aereo service, spoke to Bloomberg TV correspondent Willow Bay at the Milken Institute global conference -- and admitted that his IAC/InterActiveCorp.'s acquisition of Newsweek was "a mistake."
Oh, and he also figured that NewsBeast -- the digital entity spawned from the 2010 merger between the Daily Beast and Newsweek -- probably won't take off.
Asked about his decision to turn Newsweek into a digital-only publication, Diller called the prospect of publishing a print newsmagazine on its own a "fool's errand," and that he doesn't "have great expectations" about NewsBeast's success.
"Printing a single magazine is a fool's errand if that magazine is a newsweekly," Diller opined, adding that there are "some luxury magazines" where advertisers are compelled to purchase ads.
"So we said, 'OK, we'll offer a digital product.' We have a very very solid newsroom and we'll see. I don't have great expectations. I wish I hadn't bought Newsweek; it was a mistake."
Diller was more enthusiastic about Aereo, which uses individual antennae to bring broadcast programming to customers over the web, and is currently embroiled in a legal battle with the networks.
Despite the networks' claims that Aereo is infringing on their copyrighted material, Diller insisted during the interview that the service is merely helping consumers receive content that they have a right to consume in exchange for the networks' use of the airwaves.
"That is the right of Americans who gave licenses to broadcasters for zero. All we're doing is providing a technological method for them to receive them," Diller insisted. "It's not a legal loophole, it's a right."
Diller compared the current debate over Aereo to the initial resistance to videocassette recorders. (Spoiler alert: VCRs eventually won out.)
For what it's worth, Aereo appears to be making headway in its legal battle; earlier this month, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the company, and shot down the networks' efforts to block the service.
For the record: A previous version of this post misidentified Bloomberg reporter Willow Bay