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Dick Clark Productions wins Golden Globes case

The deal Dick Clark Productions struck to keep the Golden Globes on NBC through 2018 is valid despite the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.'s objections, a judge rules.

May 01, 2012|By Joe Flint, Los Angeles Times

Dick Clark Productions has won its legal fight against the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. over the television rights for the Golden Globe Awards show.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., owner of the Golden Globe Awards, had sued Dick Clark Productions, the program's longtime producer, over a $150-million deal Dick Clark Productions struck in 2010 to keep the show on NBC through 2018. The suit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., or HFPA, claimed that Dick Clark Productions, or DCP, had entered into that agreement without its approval and thus had violated the contract.

DCP, owned since 2007 by Red Zone Capital Management Co., a private equity firm controlled by Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, countered that a 1993 amendment to its almost 30-year-old agreement with HFPA to produce the show gave it the right to renegotiate with NBC without the association's approval.

In a rebuke to the HFPA, not only did Judge Howard Matz side with Dick Clark Productions, he also said that what was essentially a contract dispute should have never ended up in a courtroom and that the HFPA "suffered from the absence of sound, businesslike practices."

Matz went on to say that the parade of HFPA presidents and board members who testified at the trial "proved to be of little, if any, value to the court."

The HFPA argued that the 1993 amendment did not give DCP the rights to the Golden Globes in perpetuity as long as the program remained on NBC. HFPA was hoping to get back the TV rights to the show and shop it to a rival network. In a video deposition, CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves said his network would have been willing to pay at least $25 million a year for the show, almost $4 million more than NBC's average fee. This year's show drew about 17 million viewers, according to Nielsen.

In his 89-page ruling, Matz said that both parties understood the meaning of the 1993 amendment and that DCP had not acted in bad faith.

The bench trial, which ran roughly three weeks in January and February, featured testimony from several high-profile industry executives. In addition to Moonves and DCP Chief Executive Mark Shapiro, people who provided testimony either in person or through depositions included former NBC Entertainment business head Marc Graboff and even Dick Clark, who died last month.

DCP and its legal representatives applauded the verdict.

"We are pleased the court affirmed our contract and look forward to working with the HFPA and NBC to nurture and expand the Golden Globes franchise for years to come," Shapiro said.

"So much litigation over 12 words, but we are incredibly thankful that our clients' rights have been vindicated," said Martin Katz, who was the lead attorney for DCP.

A spokesman for the HFPA and the association's legal counsel did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The annual Golden Globe Awards show has had its fair share of controversy over the years, including questions of voting impropriety, a Federal Communications Commission reprimand and a decision to give Pia Zadora an acting award. It partnered with DCP in 1983 to try to rehabilitate its image, and the move paid off with bigger ratings and a deal with NBC. The HFPA is composed of about 100 journalists who work for international publications. The show is now seen as a promotional platform and a precursor for the more upscale Academy Awards.

joe.flint@latimes.com

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