Save the hype surrounding location-based social discovery apps like Highlight, Glancee and Sonar. That talk bores Barry Diller, chairman and senior executive of IAC. Diller, who also serves as chairman and senior executive of travel site Expedia, said location-based services aren’t interesting because they’re obvious.
“Now you have location-based everything,” he told CNN anchor Ali Velshi during a wide-ranging fireside chat on Sunday morning.
Among the heady topics Diller and Velshi discussed were entrepreneurialism and innovation, two labels Diller isn’t crazy about but ideas he values nonetheless. He described entrepreneur as a “pretentious” word that dresses up the will of one person to start a business. And, again, entrepreneurialism is obvious. “If you’re not an entrepreneur today, you’re not allowed to exist,“ he said.
The people who aren’t entrepreneurs, however, are those more interested in their own career path than in creating something (anything). Diller said he often has friends ask him to meet with their sons or daughters so that they can pick his brain. But if they tell Diller they just have an end goal, such as becoming a film studio head, rather than an interest, “I say get out,” he said.
But it’s not like Diller’s advising all wannabe captains of industry to take a sabbatical in Tibet to find themselves. Instead they should cut a wide path open to innovation. An example is what Diller’s done with IAC-owned Hatch Labs, a free-form entity focused on developing mobile products. The company’s developed five products so far; Blu Trumpet, a service that connects mobile developers/publishers and advertisers, is the only one to have launched.
Diller said Hatch Labs might not birth a revolution but it functions as “a hot house in the company that everybody else in the company is intrigued with. It keeps the juice going."
The revolution may come with Aereo, a controversial streaming TV and online video service that IAC announced in February. In addition to video from services like Netflix or Hulu, Aereo will stream broadcast TV, but not cable. In defending Aereo's right to exist, Diller argued that broadcast TV originated as an agreement in which programmers would receive a free license to distribute content and consumers would receive that content without a middleman controlling access.
The service is set to go live in New York on March 14, but on March 2 a slew of broadcast owners filed a lawsuit in New York claiming that Aereo violates the broadcast owners’ exclusive public performance and reproduction rights—to which Diller responds: Look to the VCR. When Sony invented the Betamax VCR, media companies filed suit, but the Supreme Court overruled them.
“I understand what [the broadcast owners] are saying, but they’re not on the side of settled law,” he said. And it’s not like Diller envisions thwarting companies like Fox and NBC entirely. “It’s not for 100 percent of the population,” he said, estimating that 25 percent-30 percent of people are cord-cutters who would be interested in a service like Aereo.
Nonetheless, “it’s going to be a great fight,” Diller said.
Diller also said that IAC-owned online video site College Humor, which specializes in short-form content, is currently shooting its first movie in California to be called Coffee Town. What he didn’t say is how the film will be distributed.