Eisner Out Means Pixar In?

The New York Times and the LA Times have two good articles on Eisner’s exit strategy. Both speculate that a deminished Eisner role could entice Steve Jobs to rehitch Pixar to Disney’s horse.

Disney’s has had a cash cow in its joint venture with Pixar, which in some years has generated 50 percent of the film division’s profit, according to the estimates of analysts. But Mr. Jobs, who recently underwent surgery for pancreatic cancer, has been vociferous in his criticism of Mr. Eisner and Disney. Mr. Jobs sparred with Mr. Eisner – and lost – over whether sequels could be counted as part of the number of pictures it owed Disney. (NYT)

Either way Pixar goes, Disney stands to lose a lot of money. It’s not the sequel fight that bothered Jobs, although he’d like to change those terms in the new contract, no it was the negotiating position of Disney for the new contract. The tactics that offended Jobs had to come directly from Eisner and that means there is probably some bad blood there. However, it’s just business. If Jobs decides that Disney promotion vehicle (distribution, themeparks, cable tv) is the best for Pixar that’s probably where Pixar will end up.

Jobs might have to bend on the sequel thing. Because much of Disney’s profits from this deal will come from having the rights to use these characters in Products, Themeparks, TV, etc. If Pixar starts pumping out movies using the same characters over and over again, then Disney won’t be able to capitalize on new characters that bring a new generation of youngsters into the fold.

The articles also talk about the Miramax brothers negotiations with Disney and how Eisner’s departure might affect things. As long as Miramax keeps finding gems like Hero to produce and distribute, then Disney needs to fight to keep them on board. But at the same time, the brothers have to have realistic business goals and combat bloat (including personnel and pet projects) in their companies.

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