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HBO Loses Bid for Emmys

TV Academy bows to boycott threat, rejects higher offer.

November 14, 2002|Brian Lowry | Times Staff Writer

Faced with a boycott threat that could have seriously damaged the organization, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences approved a new eight-year deal with the four major networks Wednesday night that will allow them to continue carrying the Emmy Awards -- rejecting a more lucrative bid from pay TV service Home Box Office.

Industry sources say that ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox agreed to a deal worth $52 million, in which they will take turns televising the Emmys through 2010, as they have since 1994.

Under the agreement, the networks will pay $5.5 million per year during the first four years, sources said, escalating to $7.5 million in the fifth year.

That represents a sizable increase over the $3 million the networks had been paying, but considerably less than the $10-million bid by HBO, which had met the academy's asking price.

CBS Television President Leslie Moonves presented the four networks' counterproposal to the academy's executive committee Wednesday.

With the networks threatening to withdraw all support from the Emmys -- and perhaps launch a competing awards show -- if the nonprofit organization opted for the exclusive HBO deal, insiders said the academy was happy to maintain the status quo while still securing a sizable raise to fund its programs.

Academy President Todd Leavitt said the deal, ratified by the group's board of governors in North Hollywood, was "in the best interests of the industry."

HBO's bid, revealed Monday, stunned ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox. The academy has for years maintained that it deserves more of the profits the networks reap from the Emmys.

The Emmys, however, rely on the networks' participation and goodwill. For that reason, flirting with a single-network deal risks retaliation from the left-out broadcasters that some felt could significantly undermine the organization's future.

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