NBC’s Globes grab has rivals riled up

Press org limits media access

The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. has inked a deal that grants NBC exclusive live interviews at the upcoming Golden Globes pre-show, and set off a firestorm in the process.

Other networks have secured similar deals in the past, as the Alphabet web did with the Academy for this year’s live coverage of the Oscar’s pre-show. But the HFPA’s pact with the Peacock represents the first time Hollywood journalists have brokered a deal for cash with a TV network in exchange for excluding other press coverage.

NBC will thus not only broadcast the three-hour awards show Jan. 23, but will precede it, for the first time, with an hourlong exclusive red-carpet celebrity interview cavalcade.

Not surprisingly, other networks — and shows centered on celebrity interviews — are irked by the arrangement: The Globes have become a huge ratings draw, with just under 50 million people watching the telecast in the U.S. and 250 million viewing it worldwide.

“It’s disturbing,” said John Rieber, senior VP, original programming, at E! Entertainment Television. “We’re extremely disappointed that a press organization would restrict press access. This is much bigger than just about E! — It’s all press being excluded (from live coverage).”

As a result of the exclusion, E! is re-evaluating whether it will even undertake its traditional coverage of Globe nominations.

Helmut Voss, president of the HFPA and a correspondent for Germany’s Springer publications, defended the exclusivity deal, pointing out that it only prevents news orgs from airing celeb interviews live. It does, he explained, permit brief cutaways from hard news programs to the stars on the red carpet and allows for unlimited use of the footage after the event.

“We agonized over this for quite some time,” Voss told Daily Variety. “I’ve been a newspaperman for 37 years, and I know that there’s a ‘press censors the press’ angle to this that I am very aware of. But, for God’s sake, its only restriction is that (other news organizations) can’t go live — not that they can’t cover it.”

That said, media watchdogs and execs at other networks contend that it’s too considerable a concession.

Insiders at NBC don’t deny that the Peacock approached the HFPA about expanding the Golden Globes broadcast by an hour. Peacock sources said that in the wake of NBC’s successful four-hour Emmycast in 1998, which included an arrivals seg, and ABC’s expanded 1999 Oscarcast, it simply made sense to do the same with the Globes.

No pressure

But any implication that NBC pressured the HFPA or producer Dick Clark Prods. into an exclusive pre-show is simply false, one NBC exec said. “We asked for it, we negotiated it, they agreed to it and we signed it,” the Peacock exec said.

A spokesman for DCP said that Clark was out of the country and unavailable for comment. The spokesman declined to comment or to make other DCP execs available for comment, referring questions on the matter to Voss’ press agent.

“It’s incredible. It’s certainly improper,” said Steve Brill, publisher of Brill’s Content. “One has always though of (the HFPA) as suspect, but this puts it over the top. It makes a lot of Hollywood coverage out to look like what it so often is — not journalism.”

In a memo written to an org which has traditionally covered arrivals at the Globes, Voss defended the pact: “When (NBC) as our Golden Globes partner indicated that they would like to extend the three-hour broadcast — and pay for it — we felt obliged to listen.”

Anticipating controversy

But Voss also seemed to suggest in the memo that the arrangement would be controversial. “We are very aware of the pitfalls involved when there is the appearance of journalists imposing embargoes on other journalists. We have also reserved the right to cancel the pre-show after two years should it turn out to be more controversial than we expect.”

Voss claims that the exclusivity was requested by NBC and Dick Clark Prods. “It’s not about the money,” said Voss. “It’s about keeping NBC and Dick Clark Prods. happy.”

No figure was available from NBC, DCP or the Globes for the pre-show deal.

(Josef Adalian contributed to this report.)