While some investors think there are cheap opportunities in times of financial turbulence for patient companies with deep pockets, other executives speaking at the Media & Money conference in New York urged businesses to proceed with caution.

While Viacom president and CEO Philippe Dauman said company executives are pleased to hold little debt and have plenty of free cash flow in these times of uncertainty, it expects to grow organically and limit itself to targeted strategic acquisition. That’s because Viacom executives still see plenty of organic growth opportunities through capitalizing on its existing brands.

Likewise, THL Partners co-president Scott Sperling said in the current environment, its better to be “overly cautious.” He added he’d rather miss the bottom of the market than taking on the risk of aggressively making bets now.

Miles Nadal, the chairman and chief executive of MDC Partners, which is doing a roll-up of boutique advertising agencies, offers some advice to advertising agencies on how to get through the current market (which can be applied to all service-oriented companies): make sure your clients are thrilled with your services and be proactive, he said.

This is the time to differentiate yourself as a company, he added. As the economy weakens, there will be a movement toward firms that perform. Finally, if you are thinking about investing in a company or making an acquisition, it's a great time to see how people perform against adversity.

Some panelists at the conference argued that old media companies can reinvent themselves. For example, Jeffrey T. Stevenson, a managing partner at Veronis Suhler Stevenson, said the way to make money is to pay for content once and use it two or more times. He cited textbook and reference book publishers, who are turning their data into databases that are sold on a subscription basis to libraries.

On the other hand, Bob Weinstein, co-chairman of The Weinstein Co., said his company is betting that a DVD explosion can happen again in a new format, which is why it is building a film library and buying things like a catalog consisting of 300-400 martial arts films. There is no market for those films on TV, but there will be online in five or 10 years, he said.

After founding and building Miramax into an indie powerhouse and selling it to Disney in the mid 1990’s, brothers Harvey and Bob Weinstein left that company in 2005 to start all over again. “Three years later in our minds, we are back,” Bob Weinstein said. “We have funds and we have deals,” including buying a piece of the exclusive Web community aSmallWorld, and a DVD distributor, Genius Products.

Of course, there were plenty of back-and-forth exchanges on old media companies. At one point Santo Politi, a general partner of the venture capital firm Spark Capital, said, “We want to disrupt the hell out of existing media companies and then we want to help them as much as we can.”

NBC Universal chief digital officer George Kliavkoff responded: “This is what makes business exciting: people try to set us on fire then sell us buckets of sand.”

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