A Conversation With Michael Eisner, SXSW, 3/11/08, 11:30am
Featuring: Michael Eisner, CEO, The Tornante Company
Michael Eisner was at SXSW to promote his new venture, Tornante. Eisner believes the time has come for story-oriented content on the Internet. Eisner is hoping to apply the expertise he acquired at ABC, Paramount, and Disney to the Internet. However, Eisner doesn't believe that Internet dramas will displace movies and television. "New content always supplements old content, and expands the audience."
After the formation of Tornante, Eisner set out to find the people who were already creating such content. Among his initial discoveries was an Internet TV series titled Sam Has 7 Friends. Eisner approached the creators, and they had an idea for a new series, titled Prom Queen.
"People in this medium are the new Spielbergs of this generation," Eisner said. "I think people are recognizing that there's something happening here."
Eisner believes that 99% of all Internet content is awful, but that 1% is really good. Of course, he also recognized that many of the 99% believesthey're in the 1%. "Your intention is not to do crap, but you can smell it after the fact."
He also believes that in five years, content on the Internet will be as important as content in movies and in television.
"That's why I'm in content," he says. "Someone's going to want to see it. That's what society is about."
Are there different artistic decisions? Yes and no, says Eisner. "I think the big mistake I made before was believing that there was a difference between movies and television. But I believe that with the right cast, and really emotional content, money can be made."
Q: What are your thoughts on copyrights?
A: I'm conflicted. I always thought what seperated our country from others is patents and copyrights. When I was at Paramount, we discovered that Exxon was pirating Saturday Night Fever and Grease to screen for the workers on ships. We're in Hollywood, and there are people out there trying to make money."
A photograph was taken of Eisner with a Flat Stanley.
Before the panel wrapped, the moderator added: "I think people are eventually going to get screen fatigue. Eventually, I think people will think, it's so nice to read a book for a change."