Deposed Disney CEO Eisner’s advice to ‘stupid’ striking writers: blame Steve Jobs, not the studios

Apple iTunes“In his keynote speech on Wednesday morning at the Media and Money conference hosted by Dow Jones and Nielsen, former Disney CEO Michael Eisner talked about writers as though they were a minority group that he didn’t particularly understand well. ‘I like writers. Some of my best friends are writers,’ he said as though attempting to save face. But nevertheless, his foremost epithet for the ongoing Writer’s Guild of America strike was ‘stupid,'” Caroline McCarthy reports for CNET.

“Eisner said in the keynote, which was structured as a conversation with Neil P. Cavuto, senior vice president and managing editor of Fox Business News. ‘This is a stupid strike,'” McCarthy reports. “Eisner, now the head of a private investment firm called The Tornante Company, has launched an online video studio called Vuguru, and said that it’s still more or less a fruitless labor. Vuguru’s debut series, a serial mystery called Prom Queen, ‘didn’t make money,’ he said.”

“The problem, Eisner said, is that the Writer’s Guild is lobbying for a bigger cut of the profits from digital distribution–and according to the former Disney chief, those profits simply aren’t there,” McCarthy reports. “He said it would take about three years for Web video and other forms of digital distribution to gain enough of a foothold to be profitable–and that’s when the Writer’s Guild would have a case to make. ‘What I’m saying is for a current writer, for six thousand people to give up today’s money for a nonexistent piece today is stupid,’ Eisner asserted. ‘They can do it in three years. They shouldn’t be doing it now.'”

“Eisner, a well-known critic of Apple (whose CEO, Steve Jobs, is a powerful member of Disney’s board of directors), suggested that the profits may be getting sucked up elsewhere. The studios ‘make deals with Steve Jobs, who takes them to the cleaners. They make all these kinds of things, and who’s making money? Apple! They should get a piece of Apple. If I was a union, I’d be striking up wherever he is,'” McCarthy reports.

Full article here.

So, the writers are stupid for striking, the studios are stupid for making deals with Apple and Eisner himself is obviously stupid for going from Disney CEO to ignominious obscurity. (Vuguru? What the hell is that? Just go play golf and shaddup, Mikey.)

It’s impossible to negotiate with Steve Jobs. Jobs is a Shiite Muslim. – Michael Eisner, Disney Board Meeting, March 2003

Funny how Disney CEO Bob Iger seems to do just fine negotiating all kinds of deals with Steve Jobs. Jobs is a Pescetarian, by the way.

Let’s face facts. For good or bad, Steve Jobs usually gets what he wants, including Eisner’s head on a platter (which would be an example of “good” for Disney employees, customers, and shareholders – including Disney’s largest shareholder; “bad” only for Eisner, hence his grudge-inspired stupidity).

Anyway, everyone’s stupid and Steve Jobs is, as usual, the smartest guy in the room.

That part sounds about right to us, even coming from loose cannon Michael Eisner. Otherwise, the writers are striking correctly against the studios who employ them and control the profits. Apple is simply a retailer.


  1. This is way the industry is broken.
    All the content generators what to control and suck all the money out of the retail channel. When Tower was the largest retailer, what did the industry do they sucked all the profits out of Tower by underselling to Wal-mart and BestBuy. When the Online Music retailer CDNow was the most profitable and largest online media retailer, the industry killed it buy underselling to
    iTunes is the largest Digital Retailer what do they want to do kill their fastest growing retailer by underselling to and anyone else that might have a chance to compete.

    The Media Companies are the only companies that will kill a golden egg laying goose just because they thing that the goose has more control of the golden eggs then it does.

    They all need to get a grip and some brains and start supporting their digital retailers even the largest one. After all the Zune (or anyone else) is not going to slow the purchases on iPods any time soon.

  2. @craig Isbell

    As the Guild members how they feel about the small piece of the pie they got on DVD sales during the last writers strike. They settled for a piddly sliver of the profits, because the DVD market was in its infancy at the time — roughly where the “New Media” market is today. The WGA knows better than to repeat that mistake on internet profit sharing today.

    As for Eisner’s “Jobs is the devil” thing — it’s clumsy misdirection of the most obvious kind. This guy gets more like Emperor Palpatine every time I see him. I predict that inside of a week, he’ll have lightning bolts shooting out of his hands…

  3. Eisner’s comment was meant to deflect attention from the real issue at hand which is the studios taking advantage of the writers by not compensating them fairly by adjusting their pay to the new models of media consumption. Seems like this is a recurring theme – CEO of badly run media company blames Apple and its CEO for their lack of vision, direction and aptitude at running and adapting a business.

  4. The strike is a perfect example of the way big media operates. The writer’s guild is simply asking for similar terms/protections and coverage on internet distribution as they have on network distribution. Their “stupid” profit demands are really quite reasonable. If the networks make a reasonable profit, so do the writers. Check it out:

    ‘What’s the biggest issue? Internet and New Media

    What are we asking for in Internet and New Media? Two things: 1. Residuals for reuse of content (like replaying tv shows) on the internet. We’re asking for residuals of 2.5% of revenue — that means for every dollar they get paid, we’d get 2 and a half cents. It’s a flat percentage, so if they’re right and they’re never ever going to make a penny, well then, we won’t either. No harm, no foul. Since 2.5% is our starting point, in any normal negotiation we’d end up somewhere between what they want to pay (.3%) and what we’re asking for (2.5%). I’d guess 1 to 1.5 %. 2. Coverage and protections for original content (new stuff we create for the internet.) We’re asking for basic protections so that when we write original stuff for the internet, we have rights — health and pension, minimum amounts, credits and separated rights (so if we make some amazing character or show, we get the right to share in its success.) We’re just asking for the same protections we already have for writing in TV or film. Nothing new or weird. Just the basics.

    What are the other issues? DVDs: Currently we get .3% per dvd, we’re asking for .6%. Translation: now we get 4 cents per dvd. We are asking for 8 cents per dvd. Since most DVD’s cost at least 10 bucks, that doesn’t exactly seem like a bank-breaker. Whatever. Enforcement of Coverage: There are lots of shows, like game shows, documentaries and talk shows, where writing is supposed to be covered under our contract. The companies sometimes just ignore the contract — which means folks don’t get health and pension, and if they ask for it, they get fired. We want them to stop that, and honor the contract they signed. Expansion of Coverage: We want to cover stuff where writers are working without coverage, which means without health and pension and other protections. The two big areas are animation and reality. We think those writers should be covered.

  5. Where is the iSuppli-like company for a DVD distribution?

    Lets take a season pack of a tv show on DVD and get its breakdown cost of who gets what.

    Let’s see where the big bucks go.

    No one will do such good things, we will all look at only the hardware parts, things that are easy to do. That’s why we need journalists and investigators. Not shitty bloggers.

  6. Go Get ‘Em Synthmeister. Getting appropriate shares of profits on new media seems fair, but of course studios like NBC/Universal will say, “See, this is why we have to charge $4.99 per episode on iTunes! Those writers are us taking us to the cleaners!” Well, that and they need to be willing to actually pay for good scripts to begin with, then they might have more hit shows.

    Good luck to you guys!

    As for Eisner: “Bitter, party of one. Bitter, party of one. Your table is ready.”

    MW: “And Leon’s getting larger.” Now that’s good writing!

  7. If someone creates a work for hire, writer, artist, etc… a price is agreed upon and then the person is paid. If the work is then sold again through another way not anticipated by the original deal, they should be paid again for the additional sales.

    Look’s to me like Eisner doesn’t want to pay writers for their work that is sold online. Thinking like this is what got him ousted in the first place.

  8. Eisner said it best “The studios make deals with Steve Jobs”, a deal means they signed a contract. No one forced them to sign it. “Oh little old Apple will never go anywhere”, who looks like the fool now?

  9. How can their be no profits in distributing tv shows over iTunes? It costs the studios ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, not even bandwidth! Methinks the money is getting sucked up by the studio execs, not Apple. And yes, the writers deserve a cut of that money.

  10. It’s been general knowledge for years around LA that Michael Eisner is a clueless asshole has performed the classic Peter Principle bounce into total irrelevance. Now the depth of his assholiness and pathetic stupidity has made its way into general circulation since he was given the chance to embarrass himself via his little bully pulpit.

    That a sad, sick man who has gone from a position of prominence into being a non-factor in the entertainment business now wants to lash out at those who have taken his place is not at all surprising. That he can’t even do it with some degree of rationality and/or authority is actually kind of disappointing.

    Trust me, there are a lot of folks in LA who are getting a lot of entertainment and amusement out of Michael Eisner’s plight–it is a source of much wit over dinners around town.

    When you’ve stepped on as many toes as Eisner has, there’s no shortage of feet waiting to kick you when you’re down.

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