Barry Diller: Trusting instincts and doing damage

Barry Diller is a big believer in the purity of decisions and ideas. Listen to your instincts, the famous media mogul counsels, and don’t forget that “any new idea is going to irritate the incumbents.”

Despite having spearheaded four decades’ worth of successful film and TV, Diller declares forcefully that “there’s no way” to identify what will be a hit. “All this stuff that says you can market research your way, based on an idea or a script, to how a movie is going to perform, it’s all hogwash,” he scoffs. “You don’t know and you cannot know. You just have your instincts.”

A self-declared fan of creative destruction—“I tend to embrace it,” he says—Diller believes that “if you’re not doing damage, you’re not doing anything interesting.” The central disruption today is, of course, online, where Diller is currently focusing his efforts in the entertainment field, partnering with content providers to make more entertainment available online. “I want that to be the distribution methodology for everything,” he says.

Speaking of creative destruction, Diller has some unorthodox ideas about the sea change in the music business. “The music industry had its head in the sand,” he says. “They were charging $17, $18 for a cassette that cost 8 cents to make. I think at a certain point people thought ‘I’m not stealing, it’s repatriation! I deserve something.’” He sees the industry’s upended business model as a healthy sign. “It’s made the business more efficient; it’s made it more creative, because they have to survive.”

Despite all his successful projects, ranging from entertainment to travel, online commerce and philanthropy, Diller dismisses the idea of being goal-oriented. “I’ve never had a goal, and if I had a goal, I think that would be terrible,” he says. “I wanna stay engaged in ideas.”