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NEW YORK — Former Disney chairman and CEO Michael Eisner dismissed the Hollywood writers strike as “insanity” and “too stupid,” warning writers that they were sacrificing real income for a hope of revenue that studios did not yet have.
Eisner — speaking Wednesday morning at the Dow Jones/Nielsen Media and Money conference in a Q&A with Neil Cavuto, senior vp and managing editor of Fox Business News — said writers had been premature in pressing for digital revenue when the model was still unproven, and should have postponed action for at least three years.
“For a writer to give up today’s money for a nonexistent piece of the future — they should do it in three years, shouldn’t be doing it now — they are misguided they should not have gone on the strike. I’ve seen stupid strikes, I’ve seen less stupid strikes, and this strike is just a stupid strike.”
The former Disney boss, now founder of the Tornante Co., suggested that studios had embarked on a “harlot’s parade” over the past few years when they had talked up the potential of digital revenues to a point when they could not back down.
Writers, he said, were striking for a piece of “a nonexistent (revenue) flow.”
“Studios are there because they have to be there. They don’t want to be in the transportation business and telling people they should be in the train business — god forbid they should miss yet another track,” Eisner said.
Eisner indicated that currently only content aggregators such as Apple were generating income from the digital boom.
“The only real winner here is Steve Jobs. They should be striking up at Cupertino or wherever he is,” he said.
Eisner said the studios had been involved in creating a storm of “rhetoric” over something that would eventually be the major avenue of content distribution, but was not there yet.
“I don’t want to be critical of (studio) people because I would have been in the middle of making mistakes. Digital will eventually be the dominant medium for distribution but not yet,” he said.
Eisner said that the current financial pain within the subprime and mortgage markets could go on for as long as two years.
“It will be a year or two and there will be a lot of pain — we have resetting of rates — banks maybe have to go back to their original businesses and not be taking fees and handing off to packagers in this whole process of financial musical chairs.”
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