The head of AOL Time Warner, the world's largest media company, says the entertainment business is changing in response to the terror attacks of September 11. Chief executive Gerald Levin says those events have also affected his own life.
Mr. Levin says there is a new sense of patriotism in the entertainment business, and he supports the discussions now taking place between White House officials and Hollywood executives. The talks began when Hollywood offered to do its part in the war on terrorism. "Certainly there's no notion that the material should be affected by the government or the circumstances," he says. "But the social commitment of the motion picture industry, I think, has been raised to a new level. It is just all the things we can do with public service spots, and really just being helpful."
AOL Time Warner is a multimedia giant whose properties include Warner Brothers Studios and Warner Music, the internet service provider America Online, Time Magazine and the CNN and HBO cable networks.
It came as a shock last week when the chief executive officer announced his early retirement, effective in May. Amid reports that management disputes had hastened his departure, Mr. Levin said he had simply decided to spend more time with his family. He said the events of September 11 solidified his decision, but he notes that many are skeptical of his explanation. "The action I've just taken this past week, probably no one can accept on its face. And therefore there'll be a continuing inquiry as to what's really going on," he says. "But those of you who know me should understand that what you see is what you get."
Two years ago, Mr. Levin engineered the merger between Time Warner and America Online. The new company has had some major successes, among them the Warner Brothers movie "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." But it also faces a slowdown in Internet subscribers and an industry-wide drop in advertising. The executive expects no quick turnaround in the advertising market.
However, Mr. Levin says the media giant is well positioned for what is called "cross-platform" advertising which, in the case of the Internet, can be customized for individual users. For example, the works of a singer with Warner Records are promoted by Warner Brothers Television and America Online, widening the demand for the company's products.
Mr. Levin notes that as AOL Time Warner responds to a difficult market, it has changed in another way since September 11. There is a new concern with security. This week the company named a new security chief, the retiring deputy director of the U.S. Secret Service.