Freelance journalist Dominic Patten is covering the trial for Deadline:
The awards show is over, but the legal showdown is about to begin. More than a week after the Golden Globes were broadcast on NBC, the longsimmering feud between the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and Dick Clark Productions over who controls the lucrative TV rights finally goes to trial this morning in federal court in Downtown LA. The witness list over the next week includes CBS honcho Les Moonves (who may turn out to be the star witness), outgoing NBC bigwig Marc Graboff, DCP top execs Dick Clark and Fran La Maina and Mark Shapiro, and past and current HFPA presidents Aida Takla-O’Reilly and Philip Berk and Judy Solomon. O’Melveny & Myers’ Daniel Petrocelli is repping the HFPA while Ron Olson and Marty Katz head up Dick Clark Productions and Red Zone Capitol’s team.
Like everything concerning Hollywood, this is all about money and the fine print. Or, as DCP lawyers said in a recent filing, “the central focus of this case is a narrow issue of contract interpretation.” The HFPA claims that DCP had no right in 2010 to sign a long-term agreement locking in the awards show with NBC until 2018. DCP, which is currently owned by Red Zone Capitol Management (the private equity firm run by Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder), counters that its deal with NBC was well within its rights. The production company claims that a 1993 amendment to a 1987 agreement between itself and the HFPA, permitted DCP rights in perpetuity to negotiate with NBC with or without the HFPA’s further consent. The network has been broadcasting the ceremony since 1996. DCP resurrected the Globes show in 1983.
Fees for the long-term NBC deal are to be shared 50/50 between DCP and the HFPA, estimated at over $20 million annually. But the HFPA has made no secret of its desire to negotiate the broadcast rights to the yearly ceremony with rival networks like CBS and Fox for even bigger bucks. In its initial November 2010 lawsuit, the HFPA specifically complained that DCP “did not solicit license offers from any networks other than NBC, did not consult experts regarding the market value of the license, and did not take other reasonable steps to determine and ensure that NBC’s proposed terms for licensing the broadcast rights for the Golden Globes awards show were above, at, or even near market rates for such rights.”
That’s why CBS’ Moonves may be the star witness. Next week he’ll provide testimony of “communications regarding the parties agreements and broadcast rights to the Golden Globes”. With allegations of sweetheart deals between DCP and NBC swirling, HFPA lawyers are counting on Moonves to name the amount that CBS would pay for the broadcast rights to the Globes again if the show became available. (CBS aired the Globes briefly in the late 1970s-early 1980s.)
As for the other witnesses, DCP’s La Maina was deeply involved in the latest NBC deal and will be first up. HFPA’s Takla-O’Reilly and Berk are expected to give testimony on “the parties’ agreements and course of conduct.” NBC’s Graboff negotiated with DCP for the network in the last go-round and is expected before Friday, as is DCP’s Shapiro and Clark. The testimony of HFPA’s Solomon who, according to a trial brief filed last week, said in a December 2002 meeting with DCP that the contract extension is for “as long as NBC wants it”. That interpretation by Solomon fits perfectly with how DCP see the relationship, their rights under it, and the underpinning of their deal with NBC. Stay tuned.