Eisner to cablers: Mouse isn’t a rat

Disney head holds dinner at National Cable Show

NEW ORLEANS — Walt Disney topper Michael Eisner put in his first appearance ever Tuesday at the National Cable Show, extending a peace offering to cable operators often angered by the high cost of carrying Mouse channels such as ESPN.

After walking the pared-down confab floor early in the day, Eisner and other top Mouse House execs threw a dinner for cable system execs at an undisclosed location in the Big Easy.

Show was buzzing over Eisner’s presence, with camera crews rushing to catch his every move.

After the morning general session, Eisner met Disney prexy Robert Iger at the ESPN booth, holing up for several minutes in the semi truck that’s serving as mascot for the channel.

When pressed by reporters about dinner with the cable operators, Eisner parried the questions by saying he planned to talk about such neutral topics as food and New Orleans’ tourist spots.

Eisner dismissed any notion that there is tension between the Mouse House and cable operators. Rather, the only tension he’s worried about is the stress of trying to come up with hit TV shows.

A top cable exec, however, said it was a clear attempt by Eisner to smooth ruffled feathers.

Also, Eisner inadvertently revealed that ABC Family has stuck a carriage deal with DirecTV, well before the network was ready to announce it. Anne Sweeney, president of the ABC Cable Networks Group, who was standing next to him, groaned, “You can’t take Michael anywhere.”

The Mouse House’s ABC Cable Networks also has a large booth on the show floor, showcasing ABC Family, Disney Channel, SoapNet and Toon Disney.