UBS Mood Subdued, But Not Attendance

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The atmosphere (unsurprisingly) was downbeat at the UBS Media and Communications conference this week in New York. Several of the CEOs who presented spent a good amount of their time just trying to calm investor fears about the worsening economy.

But at least they weren’t preaching to empty seats.

Despite obvious belt-tightening at media companies and financial-services firms — the typical audience at the annual conference — practically every session The Wire attended was standing-room only. (Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei’s presentation on Dec. 10 had a few empty seats, but that may have been due more to the 8 a.m. start time than anything else.)

Aryeh Bourkoff, one of the moderators at the conference and UBS vice chairman of Technology, Media and Telecoms (TMT) Investment Banking, unofficially pegged the conference attendance at about 1,700. That’s more than came last year, even though it’s a time when travel budgets are being severely pinched.

Bourkoff credited the turnout to the number of CEOs making presentations — including NBC’s Jeff Zucker; Viacom’s Philippe Dauman and Time Warner Inc.’s Jeff Bewkes — and their frank depiction of the current economic climate

“It was the most candor that I have seen from management teams about challenges — and opportunities — than I have seen in recent years,” Bourkoff said in an e-mail