HFPA trial sheds light on broadcast rights value

A sidelight to the trial over the broadcast rights to the Golden Globes has been how much the kudocast is worth, and one industry figure the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. hopes to shed light on its value is CBS president and CEO Leslie Moonves.

More details of a 2010 conversation that Moonves had with then-HFPA president Philip Berk were revealed in court documents. Moonves, who will not have to testify in person, nevertheless said in a deposition that he was “prepared to pay” $25 million per year for the rights, and that CBS was “probably willing to go to 30.”

“The only thing we talked about was the length of the deal,” Moonves said in the deposition. “And I believe it was a five-year deal; it’s my recollection. And as I said, it was an opening offer. And anyone who does these negotiations knows there’s more room than that when you put it out. You know, and it wasn’t even an official offer, and I didn’t, you know — once again, I did not know the relationship between Dick Clark and Hollywood Foreign Press. When he asked me for a number, I actually thought we had an opportunity to truly be in the bidding.”

In fact, Dick Clark Prods. was negotiating a new deal with NBC, one that ultimately came to about $21.5 million over seven years, running through 2018.

The DCP deal with the Peacock network was the trigger that led to the HFPA’s suit against its longtime producer. The HFPA claims that DCP secured the NBC deal without its consent, and has suggested that it prevented it from getting better terms elsewhere. In his deposition, Moonves says that he talked to his head of business affairs, Debbie Barak, and telling her of learning that NBC was “only paying $17 million” and saying, “God they got a bad deal.” Moonves apparently was referring to the HFPA.

But it was unclear whether Moonves’ offer would have included just broadcast rights or other rights to the show, including digital rights and to the pre-show on the red carpet. The $21.5 million that NBC ultimately agreed to pay was only for broadcast rights, and Mark Graboff, then at the network, said last week that he believed they overpaid.

DCP included excerpts from Moonves’ deposition in a court filing asking Judge Howard Matz to rule the portions inadmissible on the grounds that it is irrelevant and hearsay.

The case actually doesn’t center on the rights fees, but the interpretation of a 1993 amendment to a previous agreement between the HFPA and DCP. Dick Clark Prods. claims an “extensions” clause in the 1993 pact gives it the rights to produce the show as long as it secures a deal with NBC. The HFPA, however, claims that that was not the intent of the contract at the time or since.

In the federal courtroom on Tuesday, longtime HFPA member Lorenzo Soria testified that at a membership meeting, in which Clark and his lieutenant Francis LaMaina addressed the membership about new deal with NBC, the terms were discussed as lasting “10 years maximum. That was the way it was presented to us.”

Soria went on to serve terms as an HFPA board member, and stints as president and chairman.

One argument that the HFPA has been expected to raise is that its president in 1993, Mirjana Van Blaricom, did not have authority to sign the agreement with DCP because a clause giving DCP “infinite” options would need the approval of membership. Van Blaricom has steadfastly denied that was the case.

In 1993, Soria had been critical of Van Blaricom, calling the way that she had run the HFPA “divisive.”

But Bradley Phillips, an attorney for DCP, attempted to show that if Soria had questions about Van Blaricom’s role, at the time he didn’t raise objections to her signing a contract with DCP. He asked Soria whether he requested to see a copy of the proposed contract with Dick Clark Prods. Soria said he did not.

Van Blaricom has said she “signed, with full authority in the presence of the sitting membership, this 1993 amendment that was approved with more than 90% of the HFPA members in attendance.”

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