Pact keeps music kudos on Eye through 2021

CBS has renewed its deal for the Grammy Awards with a 10-year pact that underscores the increasing value of kudocasts across the dial.

New agreement marks an early renewal for the Grammycast as CBS had a few more years to go on its existing contract with the Recording Academy.

The Eye has good reason to be confident about the kudocast’s future prospects: Its 53rd edition in February was the highest rated since 2000, reaching 26.7 million viewers.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed but Recording Academy prexy Neil Portnow indicated the previous pact was struck after the 2010 telecast. Though he offered no specifics on that deal, sources indicate it would have expired in 2013.

Portnow told Variety, “We felt, given the state of the economy and the broadcast business, (that it) wasn’t the right time to talk about the long term … (but) we’d always contemplated quickly coming back to the table.”

The decade-long deal is the latest — and longest — in a string of pacts struck this year to keep kudocasts at the nets they’ve called home for lengthy periods. In February, ABC and AMPAS came to terms on an agreement that locked up the Oscars through 2020 on the broadcaster that’s aired it since 1976. In May, ATAS kept the Emmys on a “wheel rotation” at the Big Four for an additional eight years; it’s been shared by the broadcasters since 1977 except for a five-year break just on Fox in the 1980s and 1990s.

The future of another marquee awards show, the Golden Globes, is uncertain given a legal battle being fought between the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. and Dick Clark Prods. DCP had been trying to get NBC to sign up for seven more years.

The 10-year commitment marks the longest pact CBS has ever struck with the Recording Acad, double the duration of the last deal the parties made public back in 2002. That accord was estimated to have cost CBS about $20 million a year in rights fees. Given the enduring strength of Grammycast ratings and the additional specials called for under the pact, it’s a safe bet the new deal is worth significantly more to the acad.

For CBS, the deal ensures that one of primetime’s most-watched events remains on its air at a time when the number of tentpole programming events is dwindling.

CBS saw a significant increase in ad revenues from the Grammys in recent years, which made retaining the kudocast all the more important. Grammys have aired on CBS for the past 38 years. For CBS Corp., a successful Grammycast also boosts other assets at the conglom including TV stations, radio stations and its digital division, CBS Interactive.

Even outside of the awards circuit, top-drawer TV events are commanding longer deals, particularly on the sports front. Comcast surprised the industry by emerging the winner of a hotly contested faceoff for Olympics rights, snapping up the next four Games through 2020.

And CBS itself has demonstrated before it’s not afraid of commitment, splitting a 14-year deal for NCAA basketball with Turner Broadcasting.

Sports and awards shows share added value for delivering an immediacy that makes them relatively DVR-proof. However, sports represent a more reliable route to mass audiences than awards shows, many of which have struggled in recent years with ratings declines.

But a few kudocasts, including the Grammys, have found their way back to growth. A renewed emphasis on performances in the telecast from A-list chart-toppers helped rejuvenate the Grammys, as did a more concentrated effort to market the program via social media.

Nevertheless, the new round of long-term pacts carry some risk given the broadcasters are tying their fortunes to franchises that are far from guaranteed to maintain growth indefinitely. That said, even in decline their value can’t be denied because it’s not as if competing services have arisen to exceed their reach.

New pact also calls for the continuation of a performance special tied to the announcement of the nominations in November, “The Grammy Nominations Concert Live: Countdown to Music’s Biggest Night.” In addition, a new two-hour special is part of the deal; details will be announced later.

Though the Grammy noms special is going into its fourth year on the air, the 2012 edition will be the first under the formal agreement.

Portnow said that the newly announced programming will likely be stand-alone shows that will air outside Grammys season. He intimated that these Grammy-branded shows could take the form of thematic programming — for instance, genre salutes or shows that reflect Recording Academy institutions like its Hall of Fame recordings or special merit award winners (like the Lifetime Achievement Awards or Trustees Awards).

However, there’s no guarantee that such a special will run every year of the new deal.

Portnow added, “We wanted to have a place-holder to be able to roll out some of the creative ideas we had in partnership with the network.”

The 54th annual Grammys, which will be held at Staples Center in Los Angeles, has been set for Feb. 12. It will remain a 3½ hour broadcast beginning at 8 p.m.

While a few other awards shows like the Golden Globes have experimented with airing live on both coasts in recent years, there’s no plans for the Grammys to deviate from its taped presentation on the West Coast.

The nominations special will precede the Grammys on Nov. 30.

“We are excited to be the home of the Grammys for another decade and to continue our long and mutually beneficial partnership with the Recording Academy,” said CBS Corp. prexy-CEO Leslie Moonves. “The long-term structure of this deal will provide even greater continuity with marketing and sales opportunities for both organizations for an event that continues to grow in size and scope — both culturally and commercially.”

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