HFPA asks judge for delay of next phase of kudocast rights trial

The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. asked a federal judge on Thursday to delay the next phase of the trial over the rights to the Golden Globe Awards as it pursues an appeal, even raising the possible sale of longtime producer Dick Clark Prods. as a reason to immediately take the case to a higher court.

In April, Dick Clark Prods. won a definitive judgment from U.S. District Judge Howard Matz, who sided with its version of a rights contract for the Globes that gives DCP options to produce the show as long as it can land a deal with NBC

Earlier this week, Red Zone Capital, which owns DCP along with Six Flags Entertainment, said that it has retained the Raine Group to explore sale options. The New York Times reported Wednesday that the move came in response to interest from a Chinese media company.

“We’ve recently hired Raine to help us think through our options and to organize any conversations with any interested parties,” Red Zone said in a statement. “At this point, no decision has been made to enter into a transaction of any kind, and it’s not clear whether any transaction will happen at all.”

Matz’s decision was for just the first phase of the case, but the HFPA wants to appeal immediately rather than waiting until the end of the second phase, which will involve issues such as accounting, digital rights and pre-show rights, all less central to the rights to the show itself. DCP has indicated that it opposes such a move, and that the court should proceed to the next phase.

In its filing late Thursday, the HFPA’s legal team, led by Daniel Petrocelli, argued that proceeding with the next phase of the case now would push back its ability to appeal another “one or two years, possibly up to (or even beyond) the 2016 Golden Globes.”

A sale of DCP could give the HFPA a fresh start with a new owner, but the press org’s legal team also sees it as bolstering their case: A contract that binds them to a production partner “in perpetuity” doesn’t make sense if that producer’s ownership status changed. And the HFPA hinted that it would raise questions of whether the HFPA agreement with DCP allowed such a sale, although since it has been producer of the show, DCP has been sold twice, in 2002 and 2007.

“Even assuming a sale were permitted under the operative agreements, HFPA would be forced to cooperate, possibly forever, with some unknown company with whom HFPA never dreamed of being ‘partners,'” their filing stated. “An immediate appeal and stay of Phase II …would greatly assist the parties to understand their roles and obligations and, importantly, help manage what is undeniably a fractured and difficult ‘partnership.'”

A hearing is scheduled for July 23.

In a filing earlier this month, Matz seemed perturbed that the litigation has lingered on, claiming that both sides had previously acknowledged, “at least implicitly,” that once phase one was resolved it would result “in the resolution of all the issues.” “The court regrets that this does not appear to be the case,” he said. In fact, he said that he “no longer intends to attach highest priority to this case.”

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