Michael Eisner: Hollywood Writers Should Strike Apple


I'm here at the Media and Money conference, hosted by Nielsen and Dow Jones. Michael Eisner is speaking on the future of content, and about running his investment firm, the Tornante Company. But here's what else he said. He thinks the Hollywood writers are misguided and they shouldn't have gone out on strike: "This is a stupid strike."

What about the real sticking point--the issue of digital revenues? "There's nothing to give," Eisner says, "It's just too early." Eisner blames the studios--for boasting about how big their digital business is, so the writers want a piece of the action. Eisner says the writers should really be striking Apple in Cupertino, since Steve Jobs, not the studios, is the one making money on digital distribution.

So, he comes from Hollywood management, so his opposing the writers may not be the biggest surprise. But the fact that he's stressing how LITTLE the studios are making on digital distribution says a lot about what he thinks the studios failures are. Meanwhile he's working on the future of online video.

Eisner also commented on his purchase of the iconic Topps brand. His theory: it's one of the few brands baked into America's DNA the way Disney is. It has a loyal constituency of men who grew up with baseball cards.

With that entree, Eisner says there's potential to make a Topps into a media company, starting with sports, and perhaps then turning Bazooka Joe into an action hero. He says he likes brands, referring to a Warren Buffett image: brands are like a pointillist painting, if every single point is perfect you get a great brand.

So what will come of the internet revolution? Eisner says broadband will be the major distribution force. But all the other distribution mechanisms, from radio to theatrical movie distribution, they're not going anywhere. He thinks the business will simply expand, and I agree with him.

Eisner says the internet is "a democracy turning into an oligarchy." I think that the Internet may be disintermediating content, but I agree with Eisner that professional content and editorial selection will be valued online. And of course that's where Eisner wants his content to win.

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