Eisner: Salting The Earth (2/9/04)

So things are looking a mite sketchy for Disney CEO Michael Eisner these days, what with ex-board members Roy Disney and Stan Gold pushing investors to give him the boot-- and, of course, Steve Jobs nixing a continued Disney-Pixar relationship, depriving Disney of billions of dollars' worth of future revenue and adding fuel to the fire that's about to singe Mike's heinie. Whether or not you believe that the timing of Steve's "buh-bye Disney" announcement was just a coincidence depends largely on how conspiracy-minded you happen to be, but Stan's reluctant admission that he considers Steve Jobs one of the few ideal candidates to replace Eisner in the driver's seat made more than a few of us go "hmmmm."

Now, the last we'd heard, Stan and Roy were hitting up big institutional investors to exercise the power of their shares in DIS to vote Eisner off the board in a month, and while we're not exactly tapped into the whole Hollywood juice machine, we've been hearing third- and fourth-hand reports that the Stan 'n' Roy Wacky Anti-Eisner Road Show is gathering steam. It's possible that Eisner has seen the writing on the wall, and said writing is telling him (in decidedly unDisneylike language) to perform certain improbable biological acts on himself. If that's the case, wouldn't he be preparing his endgame right about now? And what sort of moves would he make-- especially if he perceives Steve Jobs, King of Ousters, to be instrumental in his imminent downfall?

We figure he might want to make the place a little less comfortable for a certain Apple CEO who might take his place. See, check it out: faithful viewer Ted pointed out that, as reported by CNET, the Eisner-run Disney has just announced that it's hashed out a cozy little "multiyear agreement" with Microsoft to team up on "digital media content and delivery systems," which is likely high-falutin' press release talk for "making Windows Media the only format you'll ever legally use to watch Aladdin over the 'net." Ooooh, QuickTime just got dissed and dismissed. Harsh.

Well, okay, no it didn't-- the agreement is "nonexclusive," after all. But we love the idea that Eisner might be setting up years-long collaborative efforts whereby Disney will help Microsoft make Windows Media Hollywood-friendly on the off chance that Steve swipes his CEOship. Picture Steve at a Disney press conference talking up the "superior quality and digital rights management of Windows Media" instead of hawking QuickTime. Awwwwk-ward. Things will get all tense and weird, and from his early-retirement Barcalounger, Eisner will be lovin' every minute of it.

Granted, the Microsoft thing needn't necessarily be interpreted as the action of a man making life miserable for his likely successor; it might just as likely be the action of a guy who simply wants vengeance on the fella who made him look bad. Seriously, look at the history: a couple of years back, Steve publicly called Eisner on his ignorance of hip tech lingo during that whole flap over "Rip. Mix. Burn." Steve also ended the Pixar negotiations at a really embarrassing (not to mention career-threatening) time. And geez, what about all those witty barbs during Pixar's last earnings conference call?

Not convinced that the Microsoft thing is a dig at Jobs? Fine, consider this: would Eisner do something as obscure as ban Segways from Disney World if he weren't running a full-on vendetta? Faithful viewer Scott Brister notes that, according to the Associated Press, some folks are up in arms because they can't take their goofy scooter-thingies into the park; Disney claims it's "because they haven't been approved by the Food and Drug Administration as medical devices." Pretty transparent excuse, right? It's really because Steve was an early investor and said that one day entire cities would be built to accommodate Segways; Eisner just wants to prove him wrong the same way that Steve proved Eisner wrong about Finding Nemo. ("Don't expect a blockbuster" indeed...)

Too paranoid? Okay, maybe. Heck, it's even possible that these Disney moves might have been determined without considering Jobs at all; a gazillion other companies have licensed Windows Media, and probably 85% of them at most are run by CEOs with grudges against Steve. And plenty of people hate Segways-- or, at least, they hate the smug bastards who own them. Still, we'll all know for sure if tomorrow Disney institutes a "no black turtlenecks" dress code and the cafeteria switches to an all-beef menu.

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The above scene was taken from the 2/9/04 episode:

February 9, 2004: Disney partners with Microsoft and bans Segways-- are we witnessing the Wrath of Eisner? Meanwhile, amid geographical scandal, one person finds a winning iTunes bottle cap on the completely wrong product, and if you weren't a Grammy presenter last night, you missed out on a perfectly good free iPod...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 4497: Go East... And Do The Dew (2/9/04)   So we're getting a lot of this these days: "Where are the bottles?" Here we are, over a week into the Pepsi-iTunes giveaway, and lots of viewers are reporting that Pepsi bottles in their towns are remaining stubbornly non-iTunes-enabled...

  • 4498: Free 'Pods For The Famous (2/9/04)   Say, weren't the Grammy Awards last night or something? Did we miss a whole evening's worth of music we've never heard thumped out by performers we've never heard of, interspersed with extravagantly-dressed celebrities reading terrible dialogue directly off of cue cards and occasionally handing golden Victrolas to even more performers we've never heard of?...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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