Watercooler has seen Mr. Eisner as a public speaker through the years on several occasions -- not the least of which were his folksy introductions to various Disney classic movies on videos that we had to buy right then 'cause they were going in the vault forever (until the DVD version, of course)! -- and we’ve seen him chatting up Charlie Rose. Neither of which gives us a tremendous amount of confidence that his talk show is going to be must-see TV for us. Despite his assertion, made on CNBC’s SquawkBox earlier this week where he introduced his show, that as a former CEO he can spot the obfuscation and dig in to get to the real story, we don’t have a lot of faith that’s going to happen.
Why? Because Mr. Eisner always struck us as a bit shilly, and on script, even in his “relaxed” moments of kicking back with Mickey and Goofy. Somehow we equate all the talk of Mr. Eisner being good at chatting up celebs with Martha Stewart’s people insisting to us that she’s funny, really funny.
To do a truly interesting talk show, you have to be willing to go to the places your guest would rather you didn’t. We remember a particularly excruciating Charlie Rose appearance by Mr. Eisner to promote his book, “Camp,” widely described as his “deeply personal” memoir of what summer camp taught him. It was last summer, when Roy Disney was still hard on the war path, Michael Ovitz trial news was everywhere, and the two of them didn’t break ranks once to talk about anything besides the value of swimming and crafts.
Mr. Eisner was talking a good game about asking the tough questions of folks like Rupert Murdoch, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, but when he’s been on the other side of the interview, he hasn’t even let the tough questions be asked. You think Steve Jobs will actually be candid in an interview with Mr. Eisner? Or do you think the parameters of the discussion will be hashed out ahead of time? We anticipate his style will be less Ted Koppel and more Larry King.
Mr. Eisner will have to do an awful lot more than talking on that new CNBC show of his to get anything close to a similar kind of payout this year. Then again, there’s always the corporate speaker circuit. There’s probably a market for an upbeat inspirational talk around those summer camp lessons.