On Friday I went to Columbia’s Media and Entertainment Conference where it was really interesting to see the opposing viewpoints of new and old media.

Jeff Zucker started off the day with a keynote, where he stated that his job is “to protect out content”. Notice he didn’t say his job is to “ensure his content is available when and where our fans and users want to consume it”. There were two great questions from the audience. The first was about mobile consumption of media, where Jeff responded by saying “mobile consumption is at least 5 years away in the US”. I think it’s more like 6-18 months away – just look at YouTube and Pandora on the iPhone. The second interesting question was about game-changing technologies and about Hulu’s decision to block their content on Boxee. Jeff replied that NBC doesn’t really know what’s going to be game changing until it’s been established (and he deflected the Boxee portion of the question).

This keynote really set the tone for the event, where old media firms basically confirmed their wait and see approach — still trying to defend their old models rather than developing new ones (until the old models are on the verge of breaking).

This couldn’t have been more apparent if you attended the 2pm new media panel (with VCs from Union Square Ventures and Spark Capital, and entrepreneurs from Daylife, Klickable.tv and LimeWire) and the 4pm business development panel (with BD execs from Sony, MTV, Comcast, HBO, and Warner Music).

One of the best comments from the new media panel was from Albert Wenger from Union Square Ventures. He said they are primarily looking for companies that are disrupting the gatekeeper model. For example, with the mobile industry the operators are the gatekeepers, with television the cable companies are the gatekeepers, and with education the universities and the textbook publishers are the gatekeepers. So if you have a start-up where you can enter a multi-billion dollar market, disrupt it (while adding value to consumers), turn it into a half a billion dollar market, and take a portion of that new market, you should go talk to Albert.

I have to give the panelists on the business development (old media) panel the benefit of the doubt, as their panel started at 4pm on a Friday afternoon and the audience seemed tired. However, they all echoed a similar tone as Jeff Zucker, where they are defending their existing models and waiting to see if and when they should change. I fear the writing is on the wall for a lot of these companies. Newspaper and music companies need to completely restructure to stay viable. Their old business models are done, and they need to move on. Television and cable companies are going to be next.

One thing I started thinking about after the event: why doesn’t old media invest more heavily in new media? I don’t mean within their companies, because that rarely works out well, but rather as a separate venture group that funds new technologies related to their core business. This is what technology companies do (eg. Intel, Cisco, and Google) – so why don’t we see a venture arm of NBC funding start-ups in the online video space?

Anyways, the conference was a lot of fun and it was great way to meet the panelists, as well as the attendees from other b-schools. As a current b-school student who is thinking about what to do after graduation, my biggest take away from this event is that I’m an innovator at heart, and I don’t want to be protecting an outdated business model that’s bad for consumers after I graduate.