Tech Savvy CEOs

The media business is so chaotic that a smart move today becomes the monkey on a CEO's back tomorrow—look at MySpace! Peter Lauria rates 10 CEOs navigating these choppy waters.

Jae C. Hong / AP Photo

Jae C. Hong / AP Photo

Disney

CEO: Bob Iger
Stock Price: $34.57
Smart Digital Moves: Buying Pixar, which gave Disney access to the smartest mind in technology, Steve Jobs; naming Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg to the board; building out ESPN’s digital capabilities; getting into casual gaming via Club Penguin and Playdom; naming Playdom’s John Pleasants and Yahoo’s James Pitaro to lead interactive unit
Not-So-Smart Digital Moves: Mobile ESPN; Disney’s interactive unit lost $65 million last quarter
Verdict: Savvy

Jemal Countess / Getty Images for Time Inc.

Time Warner

CEO: Jeff Bewkes
Stock Price: $31.45
Smart Digital Moves: Leading the charge on TV Everywhere, a service designed to provide digital access to cable shows once users are authenticated as subscribers to a cable service provider; merging CNN Money with Fortune.com and Money.com; creating strong websites around the sports rights owned by TBS
Not-So-Smart Digital Move: Signing off on the $850 million acquisition of Bebo, which was a colossal failure
Verdict: Somewhat Savvy

Karl Jeffs / Getty Images

News Corp.

CEO: Rupert Murdoch
Stock Price: $15.68
Smart Digital Moves: Buying MySpace on the cheap, which has allowed the company to make money from the deal; keeping WSJ.com as a paid website; BSkyB’s Sky Player, which is an Internet-based on-demand movie player
Not-So-Smart Digital Moves: Letting MySpace devolve from the social-networking leader into a struggling also-ran; buying IGN, a collection of entertainment-based websites that hasn’t gotten any traction; putting the Times of London behind a paywall; high digital-executive turnover
Verdict: Somewhat Savvy

Mark Wilson / Getty Images

Viacom

CEO: Philippe Dauman
Stock Price: $37.29
Smart Digital Moves: Striking a $1 billion deal that gives Netflix the exclusive online rights to movies from the Epix pay-TV channel; buying Harmonix, maker of videogame franchise Rock Band; building Comedy Central into a Web powerhouse
Not-So-Smart Digital Moves: Suing YouTube, which has cost Viacom hundreds of millions of dollars; MTV’s now-shuttered Urge; missing out on MySpace, which would have been a better fit with Viacom than it is with News Corp. (though, with hindsight being 20/20, some might say Viacom was smart not to buy MySpace).
Verdict: Not very savvy

Daniel Acker, Bloomberg via Getty Images

CBS

CEO: Leslie Moonves
Stock Price: $17.51
Smart Digital Moves: Streaming NCAA tournament games online; moving the outdoor billboard business, which is the ultimate analog business, to digital; staying away from exclusive distribution deals to keep CBS’ content ubiquitous; buying CNET, which gave the company a platform and desperately needed scale
Not-So-Smart Digital Move:
Verdict: Somewhat Savvy, if only because Moonves has the worst set of assets to make over digitally

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

Comcast

CEO: Brian Roberts
Stock Price: $18.02
Smart Digital Moves: By far the industry leader in telephony and broadband digital distribution; has taken a leadership position on digital issues concerning cable; bought NBCU in part to set the agenda for the deployment of TV Everywhere
Not-So-Smart Digital Moves: Entertainment portal Fancast.com has been a disappointment; buying virtual Rolodex company Plaxo, which was dead on arrival; overpaying for fashion website Daily Candy
Verdict: Savvy

Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Sony

CEO: Howard Stringer
Stock Price: $32.24
Smart Digital Move: Aggressively building out Internet-ready and 3-D televisions
Not-So-Smart Digital Moves: Losing edge on cool consumer tech products to Apple, Nintendo; the DASH personal Internet viewer has fallen flat with consumers; failing to leverage Crackle, the streaming video portal for Sony content, despite having first-mover advantage over other platforms such as Hulu
Verdict: Not Very Savvy

Frederick M. Brown / Getty Images

Discovery Communications

CEO: David Zaslav
Stock Price: $43.21
Smart Digital Moves: Buying Discovery-appropriate websites such as HowStuffWorks.com and Treehugger.com inexpensively
Not-So-Smart Digital Move: In part because it is trying to protect the core cable network franchise, Discovery still doesn’t have much of an online presence
Verdict: Somewhat Savvy

Joe Kohen, WireImage / Getty Images

Scripps Networks Interactive

CEO: Ken Lowe
Stock Price: $47.50
Smart Digital Moves: Separating the cable networks and digital assets from the old newspaper business; leveraging Food Network and HGTV into successful Web operations
Not-So-Smart Digital Moves: Overpaying for shopping websites USwitch ($366 million) and Shopzilla ($525 million)
Verdict: Not Very Savvy

Andrew Harrer, Bloomberg via Getty Images

Hearst

CEO: Frank Bennack Jr.
Stock Price: Not publicly traded
Smart Digital Moves: Invested early in Netscape and Broadcast.com; brought in strong digital leadership with the hiring of Scott Sassa and George Kliavkoff; bought digital marketing firm iCrossing
Not-So-Smart Digital Move: Magazine unit still has a weak digital presence
Verdict: Jury Still Out. Bennack only returned as Hearst’s CEO in late 2008 after having been gone from the company for eight years