HFPA, DCP dangled kudocast rights to CBS

Moonves testimony details Globes discussions

The trial over the rights to the Golden Globes has been all about the interpretation of a clause in a contract, but revelations of the extent to which rights to the kudocast were dangled before CBS proved a highlight on Thursday.

Neither the HFPA nor its longtime producer, Dick Clark Prods., could officially negotiate with another network until NBC was given a shot at the show after its contract expired following the 2011 show. But on Thursday, former HFPA prexy Philip Berk, wearing a pin of the Globe statuette on his lapel, testified that he met CBS Corp. CEO Leslie Moonves for lunch at the Four Seasons Hotel on July 14, 2010.

Berk said that he prefaced their conversation by telling Moonves that he was “not at liberty” to talk about the licensing of the show because of theNBC contract, but he did ask Moonves for a “ballpark figure” of what the show was worth. Moonves, Berk said, answered $25 million-$30 million per year, and “he thought a five-year deal is what CBS would be interested in.”

Berk said that he was asking Moonves “hypothetically” about the worth of the show but said that he then thought that it would be “inappropriate to have any further conversations.”

Moonves did indeed want the Globes, but in excerpts of a video deposition played in court, his version of events differed in places from that recounted by Berk. Berk said Moonves initiated the meeting, while Moonves said it came at Berk’s request.

Moonves also said that when Berk asked him for a “ballpark number,” he said he would get back to him. Berk, Moonves said, called about two days later to get a number and made it clear that there was “time pressure” to get one. About two days after that, “I gave him a number that we were prepared to pay for it, and there was probably room to play,” he said.

While Moonves said he thought of it as an “opening offer,” “I wouldn’t call it a negotiation. He was asking me what it was worth.”

HFPA sued Dick Clark Prods., its longtime producer, in November 2010, claiming that it renewed a rights agreement with NBC without first getting its approval. But DCP says it was allowed to do so because of an “extensions” clause in a 1993 pact giving it options to produce the show as long as it could land a deal with NBC.

According to Moonves, in recent years another figure was hinting at the availability of the ceremony: Mark Shapiro, the CEO of DCP, which also produces the Academy of Country Music Awards on CBS. Moonves said that in “at least 50% of the conversations” he had with Shapiro, the possibility of the show becoming available to CBS came up. “There were times where he would say, ‘I would rather it be you than them,’ ” referring to NBC, Moonves recalled. But he suggested that he didn’t take such a remark seriously, calling it the “common language” of negotiating strategies.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he talked to ABC or Fox, but their CEOs are not being deposed,” said Moonves, triggering laughs in the courtroom.

During the spring and summer of 2010, the HFPA and DCP had been in discussions about renewing their deal — something that may have resolved the disputed interpretation of the “extensions” clause — but they could never reach an agreement.

Sometime in 2010, Moonves said, Shapiro “offhandedly mentioned that they had to do a deal with NBC, ‘and you know why.’ ”

“It was a form of apology, that was my interpretation, after dangling it front of us for a number of years,” Moonves said.

It is uncertain how much of a factor the jockeying over the Globes will be to U.S. District Judge Howard Matz, who is presiding over a bench trial.

The HFPA argues that its members were not told about the “extensions” clause at a key Sept. 22, 2010, meeting with senior DCP execs, suggesting that even DCP did not interpret it that way back then.

But attorneys for Dick Clark Prods. have been trying to show that members didn’t even read the contract at the time, even when DCP’s Francis LaMaina left it for them to peruse. In their examination of HFPA members, DCP’s attorneys also have highlighted divisions among HFPA members and instances where the org’s own bylaws were not followed. For instance, a 1987 agreement with DCP was signed only by the HFPA’s president, even though the bylaws call for the president and the treasurer to sign pacts.

Given the stakes that were involved in a 1993 pact to return the Globes to broadcast TV, DCP attorney Bradley Phillips asked Berk whether he requested a copy of that contract to study it, even though he was not then on the board. “No, because I have never really been interested in contracts,” Berk said, adding that he took it as an “article of faith” that the president and the board back then “acted in our best interests.”