Eisner on Writers' Strike - Blame Apple?

Posted on November 7, 2007

CNET reports that former Disney CEO Michael Eisner said that striking writers should be blaming Steve Jobs for their financial woes. Eisner said that Apple's headquarters would be a more appropriate place for writers to strike than tv studios.

But Eisner acknowledged that the studios and networks aren't entirely faultless. Their problem, he said, is hyping up digital platforms as being more profitable than they actually are. "It's a double-edged sword. The studios deserve what they're getting, because they've been announcing how great (the Internet) is. But then they open their books."

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."

"Cupertino?" Cavuto offered.

Michael Eisner also called the strike a "stupid strike." Eisner argued that the digital profits the WGA wants a piece of do not exist.
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. 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.
Eisner and some of the other studio executives seem to be trying to make the argument that because the Internet is new and unprofitable there is no reason to pay writers for content that has been distributed digitally. The problem with that argument is that new media is exactly where most of the profits from scripted content are going to be made in the future. This is why writers believe they deserve to be paid something for digital downloads and streamed content.

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