Coming Up Next on CNBC2/15/2004 7:00 PM Eastern
Forget about American Idol. The most gripping thing on television last week was CNBC's ongoing coverage of Comcast Corp.'s unsolicited bid for The Walt Disney Co.
All of the elements for great television were there as we witnessed Disney chairman Michael Eisner under siege. All of his plans went up in flames, as Comcast, cable's 900-pound gorilla from Philly, showed up on his doorstep, giving a now-familiar — but most unwanted — bear hug.
Disney's beleaguered chairman has been fighting the battle of his life, trying to keep control the company as two former board members remain engaged in a bitter war to depose him.
Even Pixar Corp. — the computer-animation company responsible for such major Disney box-office hits as Finding Nemo — turned on Eisner in his hour of need, signaling that it wanted to end the relationship.
For his part, Eisner wasn't too nice during a CNBC interview last week about the Pixar rift. Disney has decades of experience in animation, he said, treating Pixar's defection like an annoying gnat biting his arm.
And maybe that's all it was to him, considering Comcast's attack on the mouse house.
Eisner has been making the rounds to call on institutional investors. Last week, he held a meeting with analysts at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. — a bid to convince them that Disney was indeed on the uptick and that the future, under his leadership, was brighter than ever.
Instead, Eisner found himself on the defensive, forced to address this most unanticipated turn of events with Comcast's unwelcome, but deliciously timed, overture.
As this high-stakes drama unfolds, many unanticipated twists and turns lie ahead. For instance, what was Eisner thinking when he decided to hold the company's annual shareholder meeting on March 3 — in Philadelphia?
Eisner knew that a bid by Comcast would come, one day or another. Was he being courteous? Was he trying to make any potential meeting between the two parties less geographically challenging?
Or maybe Eisner is counting on whipping up Disney shareholders to dismiss this unsolicited bid, and perhaps picket Comcast's headquarters — rallying against more media consolidation while also painting the nation's No. 1 MSO, with its 22 million subscribers, as the devil incarnate.
Meanwhile, Comcast Corp. president Brian Roberts and Comcast Cable president Steve Burke look like they came straight out of central casting. The two were as cool as cucumbers as they told CNBC viewers why this deal is so good.
Those Comcast guys sure are smart — and don't come off as arrogant and cocky as they outline their vision of the broadband future and why the vertical integration of these two companies is such a good thing.
And all of this brought to you courtesy of CNBC. Honestly, you couldn't talk to a person in cable last week without hearing the familiar drone of the business-news network in the background. This was truly appointment television — the kind of programming that has folks gathered around the water cooler again.
Heck, this programming was far more intriguing than Janet Jackson's costume failure during the Super Bowl. Mercifully, we now have something far more compelling to talk about.
What does Comcast's move say for the future health of cable? It says CNBC's ratings will soar.