ABC, the longtime home of the Oscars, will also become the exclusive residence of the Primetime Emmy Awards for the next four years via a broadcast rights deal with the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.

The arrangement, agreed to by the Academy’s board of governors at a 3 1/2 -hour meeting Wednesday night, follows six consecutive years for the awards show on Fox Broadcasting Co., with ABC acing out a competing “wheel” offer that would have involved all four “networks” on a rotating basis.

Terms weren’t disclosed, but sources say ABC will pay a license fee of about $ 2.5 million a year that will escalate to $ 2.7 million — about 20% less than the last Fox deal, which reportedly paid the Academy roughly $ 9.5 million over a three-year term.

With additional, unspecified considerations, sources put the value of ABC’s package at around $ 12 million over the four years — markedly better than the $ 2.1 million-per-annum four-network offer.

“They (ABC) will make money on it,” one source said, citing an estimated $ 2. 5 million production nut to stage the show on top of the license fee. After criticism of last year’s Emmycast, some industry observers anticipate that the Academy will receive greater cooperation from the studios now that the show is off Fox.

That didn’t mollify the other networks, however, who reportedly were angry about the exclusive agreement.

CBS declined comment, but NBC Enterprises prexy John Agoglia called the deal “bizarre,” noting that ATAS officials were so preoccupied about press leaks that they didn’t provide the four networks a chance to counter the ABC offer — after the Academy itself established what it deemed a fair license fee level. “It doesn’t make any sense,” he said.

Fox issued a statement saying it would have “preferred to go with the wheel format” but that the weblet will “continue to cooperate with the Academy in the fullest sense possible.”

‘Comfortable’ deal

Walt Disney Studios president Richard Frank, who chaired ATAS’ negotiating committee, said the Academy was “comfortable” with ABC’s financial terms and that the decision to pass on the wheel offer was reached “in exchange for sort of finding (the Emmys) a home.”

ATAS’ governors apparently liked the idea of establishing continuity in the presentation of the awards. “It just makes life easier every day when you’re dealing with one network every year,” Frank said, noting that ABC will have an incentive for the Emmycast to do well, since it will be selling ad time based on the previous year’s ratings.

ABC intends to move presentation of the Emmys back to its original time frame in mid-September, as opposed to the late-August window Fox had used in an effort to avoid major competition from the Big Three webs. “Network television is an event-driven business,” said ABC TV Network Group president Robert Iger, adding that ABC’s goal was to “return the stature to the statue.”

Iger added that ABC has every intention to go forward with its rival kudocast , the American Television Awards, which will be presented this May by producer George Schlatter. The ABC exec cited the thriving Grammys and American Music Awards, noting that the events would remain distinct but, separated by eight months, might actually complement each other.

‘Real awards’

Frank, a former Academy president, called the Emmys “the real awards” and any competing telecasts “a dress rehearsal” for that showcase. By having such long-term franchises, Iger said, the network is able to pursue multiyear advertiser commitments, an approach used on the Academy Awards.

ABC should have some advantages over Fox in staging this year’s Emmys, with concessions anticipated from the major guilds to reduce the number of awards presented on-air from 31 last year to “around 25″ next fall, according to ATAS president Leo Chaloukian. That would be closer to the number presented during the Oscars.

ATAS reached a number of compromises earlier in regard to award categories, among them making “The Simpsons” and other non-traditional fare eligible in categories like best comedy or drama series and resolving the controversy over guest performers, reinstating the awards but returning them to off-air status (Daily Variety, Jan. 15). The handing out of two craft awards during prime time will also be eliminated.

Fox, which had waived its right to seek another exclusive deal but was part of the four-network bid, aired the Emmys for six consecutive years starting in 1987. With its largely UHF distribution base and more limited reach (the latter, however, has grown from 87% to 95% of the U.S. over that period), Fox has staged the six lowest-rated Emmycasts, averaging a 10.9 rating, 19 share.

’92 best ever Fox rating

Despite critical brickbats, last year’s show posted a 13.9/24, Fox’s best ever, while the all-time low (an 8.2/14) came in 1990. By contrast, the Big Three webs averaged a 33 share during the five preceding years, with a 15/29 in 1980 as the previous nadir.

Frank said the Academy is also still seeking a broadcast deal on the TV Academy Hall of Fame ceremony, which has been off the air for several years. The Daytime Emmy Awards are still offered on a rotating basis and will air this spring on ABC.

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