Back in 1999, when
Disney announced it was going to create an Internet tracking stock under the GO.com brand, CEO Michael Eisner was full of grand plans, explaining how in 10 years all TV would come over the Internet and Disney would be in the middle of it.
But when Eisner announced Tuesday that Disney was
taking a 50% stake in the celebrity chronicle
, he was much more modest about his goals. That's somewhat of a surprise, given that Eisner spent much of his time at a press conference talking about all the synergies possible between Disney and
, controlled by
-branded annual entertainment awards to be developed by Disney's
correspondent making regular appearances on ABC's
Good Morning America
features on ABC's gabfest
entertainment segments on ABC TV stations.
on ABC radio stations.
on the Disney
soap opera cable channel. Not to mention
on Disney's various Internet properties. "This is consistent with a strategy at Disney," said Eisner at the press conference, "of trying to tie the print media ... in a synergistic way with the broadcast, cable, Internet."
To the onlooker it would appear that Disney is trying, with enough promotion, to fuel up
so it can reach the same orbit as its competitors
-- two magazines owned by
AOL Time Warner
, a company hard at work itself on developing numerous cross-property synergies. But, seated next to Wenner Media Chairman Jann Wenner, Eisner acted as if competing with
had never even occurred to him. "I think that's like talking about a steamroller and an ant," Eisner said. "If three years from now they were nervous about
, that would make me feel good," he said.
That's the lesson from the Internet for Disney, which is folding the erstwhile GO.com back into the parent company, and which let 135 employees go in
a round of layoffs Monday: Manage expectations. The
Disney Internet Group
tracking stock was trading at $5.85, well off its 52-week high of $25.94.
But though Eisner said he wasn't targeting AOL Time Warner's magazines, he certainly didn't restrain himself from taking potshots at the company. In response to a reporter's question about the difficulties of maintaining editorial integrity at
, Eisner acknowledged that its editors would have to walk a fine line between spotlighting Disney entertainment products and displaying an off-putting amount of home-team favoratism. Yet, he said, the challenge that
faces in that respect is "minuscule" compared to those faced by AOL Time Warner. "They've got hundreds of these problems," Eisner said.