SXSWi ’08: Michael Eisner on ‘Old Moguls’ Learning New Tricks

Former Disney CEO Eisner surveys his new project, The All-For-Nots, in concert Tuesday in Austin alongside Adam Schiff, SVP of Dan Klores Communications.

Modern media player Michael Eisner believes that in the next five years the internet will be the No. 1 distribution method for entertainment. “Those people working in it are going to be the Steven Spielbergs,” he said Tuesday in Austin in a SXSWi conversation with Dallas Mavericks owner and Internet entrepreneur Mark Cuban.

Eisner’s new media studio, Vuguru, tapped the creators of the scrappy Web comedy The Burg to develop a new series. “Once they get over that you worked at Disney or someplace,” Eisner explained, content creators have been generally excited about working with him. The new series, The All-For-Nots about a half-baked Brooklyn band, launched this week with sponsorship from Expedia and Dodge.

Taking advantage of all possible modes of distribution, it’ll be available online, on mobile devices, and on the HDNet cable network; plus users can link to their favorite character/bandmates on social networking site Bebo, which is being acquired by AOL. In an offline twist, the group will play real-live rock shows in order to support the series. “I’m now convinced they’re the next Beatles!” Eisner told Cuban. “Maybe not, but you never know.”

What makes this group so appealing?

The ultra-good-looking, nattily-dressed five-piece band (most members of whom really do live in Brooklyn) features scrappy-cute lead singer Kevin Johnston, rockin’ drummer Erica Harsch, keyboard player and series writer Thom Woodley, tamborine player/vocalist Vanessa Reseland and simmering brunette bass player Michael Moravek. Their sound is low-fi garage rock with a B-52s pop sensibility and heavy doses of on-stage charm. (They are, afterall, actors, too.)

In the Tuesday afternoon talk, when Cuban thought aloud for the crowd and asked how the rest of us could go about getting discovered by someone like Michael Eisner, Eisner quipped: “People like me? In wheelchairs, rolling dice … old moguls with four wives?”

“…and prostitutes!” Mark Cuban added.

“No,” Eisner corrected, “That’s exclusively government.”

He later gave away his secret: “The written word is the essence of everything I’m involved with.” Whether distribution happens online, on cable, or by way of mobile devices, it doesn’t matter. “If there’s a story that makes you laugh or cry, someone’s going to want to see it on one of those things.”