Fox News’ Neil Cavuto interviews Michael Eisner, the former Disney (DIS) CEO who’s now a private investor via his Tornante Company.
Let’s start with a macro question: Everyone seems worried about oil, mortgages, etc. Are you worried? I am worried. We’re at a real threshold of decision making, and which way it goes is really up in the air. I’ve come to the point of view that we’ll muddle through. And I emphasise the word “muddle.” Everyone knows what the problems are. In mortgage business, the pain is only beginning.
How long will that pain last for? A year, maybe two. Michael then goes on to explain how we got into this mess — credit was too easy, etc.
Writer’s strike is “insanity.” I don’t want to be critical of them, but I will be. All of this rhetoric by the media companies about this great new digital business… it’s a very small business. It’s growing, and it will eventually be the dominant medium for distribution, but it isn’t yet. But all of this rhetoric — there’s no money there yet.
But don’t the writers recognise that there’s no money now? No, they don’t. The studios have to be there because they have to be there, and they don’t want to miss out on something. But the only real winner here is Steve Jobs. So writers think there’s something there. They’re going out of work for a piece of a non-existent flow, which will be non-existent for at least the next three years.
But you’re investing in the Internet, so what gives? I’m doing it because I think it’s fun, and because I think it’s the future. But what I’m saying is that for today’s writers to stop working for non-existent money is stupid. They are misguided. They should not have gone on strike. This is a stupid strike. The studios can’t give them anything because there’s nothing to give. But this is also the studios’ fault — they’ve been talking about how great this business is, and now they have to open their books and explain that there’s no business. The only one making money is Apple. They should be striking up in Cupertino, or wherever [Jobs] is.
What about Topps? Neil’s very interested in Topps, which Tornante bought recently. Michael thinks Topps has lots of relevant brands and that he could eventually, via a backdoor, turn it into a media company. They think I’m crazy buying a gum company when Barry Diller is buying cool Internet companies, but they used to think the same thing about Disney — it was an old brand that was supposedly only appealed to white Christians. For the second time today, Michael mentions Proust and his madeleine. (It’s the smell of the gum, etc). Neil is a bit baffled.
A wrapup commentary about the future of the media. Michael insists that there’s still an important place for writers/editors of professional content.
Right now the Internet is a democracy turning into an oligarchy. it is out of control, where the computer is the king, and human brain is being discounted. Every single brain in this room is more interesting and more complex then all of computers in this room altogether. Language matters: The Golden Girls‘ (!) Estelle Getty is funny to Americans, but she translates poorly for Parisians.
Good content is difficult to make, and you have to pay someone to make it. I made Prom Queen for $2,500 per two-minute episode. Then I went back to work with same guys, and they wanted $4,000. Now I’m doing another deal with them for $10,000. It’s not easy to make good content. How often do you want to see a pussy cat on a skateboard, or kid getting hit in the groin? So you need to pay the 500 people who can do this stuff, and you need deep pockets to do it. Creativity isn’t everywhere. Everybody can’t do it. And it is about talent.