Eisner's To-Do List
Roy Disney's Web site, savedisney.com, is now providing some insight into just what he and fellow ousted board member Stanley Gold would suggest as New Year's resolutions for Chairman Michael Eisner (left). They include:
- Lose Weight: sell ABC
- Try a Makeover: transform ABC Family into a Disney Classics Channel
- Save Something for a Rainy Day: the Disney image
- Embrace the Future: name a successor
- Let Go of Past Grudges: reinstate Roy and Stanley to the Board of Directors
- Start Fresh: retire! ... Write another volume of memoirs. Take a cruise on the Disney Wonder!—J.E.
Out of the Ashes
Fine Living didn't seem like such a fine idea on the day Scripps Networks planned to unveil the new network more than two years ago. It was Sept. 11, 2001, and media honchos were gathered in Pasadena, Calif., for a Merrill Lynch conference. Scripps CEO Ken Lowe thought the conference would be canceled, but, when it wasn't, Scripps execs considered scrapping the Fine Living coming-out party. Network President Ken Solomon recalls the concerns. "Can we launch a new network now?" and "Is the brand ill-timed?" But Scripps elected to press forward, believing that the channel's concept—living life to its fullest—might have greater meaning than ever. Reaction from the 300 media execs and analysts was overwhelmingly good, astonishing even the Scripps folks. "It was the day that could have killed this," said Solomon. Instead, "it galvanized us." Fine Living is now in about 20 million homes.
That zany Budweiser commercial featuring a Zebra as "referee" reviewing an instant replay (above) during last year's Super Bowl telecast made a lasting impression. In a year-end survey by ad-recall tracker IAG, Bud's so-called "Replay" ad emerged as the most-liked TV commercial for 2003. And four other spots that made their debut in the game made it to IAG's top-10 list of spots for the year ranked by likeability: A Fed Ex spot spoofing the film Cast Away; a Reebok spot featuring "office linebacker" Terry Tate; a Pepsi Twist ad with Ozzie Osbourne and his kids morphing into Donny & Marie; and a Bud Light ad with a man who wears a dog on his head. Separate ads from Pepsi, Coke, Ford, Nike and Apple rounded out the top-10 list.—S.M.
Job Cuts Cool Off
You can feel a little more secure in your job, but not too secure. Media companies wound down the year with a spurt of layoffs, although the pace of job-cutting was lower than in 2002. That's the conclusion of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, which carefully tracks layoffs. The firm says media companies cut 9,663 jobs during 2003, down 18% from the 11,666 cut in 2002. And 2003 layoffs were a fraction of the 43,420 cut during the initial recession bloodbath in 2001. The tracking study's media category includes broadcast, cable, radio, advertising, entertainment, and print but excludes Internet-related cuts.
Nick's for Dennis
Here's one for the "Where are they now?" file. Former FCC Commissioner Nicholas Johnson, the agency's resident gadfly from 1966 to '73 (as seen on right), is serving as Iowa campaign manager for Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich. Johnson, who also teaches at the University of Iowa, recently called Kucinich "pretty much it" for "true liberals" tired of the "congressional puppet Democrats" backing the "pro-corporate policies" of President Bush. On media policy, Johnson and Kucinich are of like minds. Johnson continually accused broadcast companies of not living up to their public-interest obligations. In the same vein, his candidate wants to require stations to offer free airtime to political candidates and says he aims to "break up" media conglomerates.—B.M.