NBC overpaid for Golden Globes, former top exec says

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A former top executive at NBC said he thought the network overpaid for the Golden Globes in 2010 when it signed a long-term deal to keep the awards show on its network.

Marc Graboff, who until recently was NBC’s president of West Coast business operations, testified Friday that he warned his bosses at the network that the price tag for the Golden Globes, which ended up being an average of $21.5 million per show, was too high.

‘This is the kind of deal we shouldn’t rush to make,’ Graboff emailed then NBCUniversal Chief Executive Jeff Zucker and NBCUniversal Television Entertainment Chairman Jeff Gaspin in the summer of 2010 when the network was negotiating with Dick Clark Productions on a new deal for the show.

Graboff was testifying in the legal battle over who controls the television rights for the Golden Globes between the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., which owns the Globes, and Dick Clark Productions, the longtime producer of the awards show. In 2010, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. (HFPA) sued Dick Clark Productions over the NBC agreement, charging that the production company did not have the authorization to enter into the agreement without the association’s approval. The bench trial is being heard in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.


Dick Clark Productions has countered that it believes that a 1993 amendment to its almost 30-year-old partnership with the HFPA gives it control of the television rights to the Golden Globes as long as the show remains on NBC. Furthermore, Dick Clark Productions, which is owned by Red Zone Capital, a private equity fund controlled by Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, has said HFPA’s approval is not necessary for any renewal of NBC’s deal for the show.

Graboff was appearing to retell how the negotiations for the 2010 deal played out. Earlier in the week, Dick Clark Productions Chief Executive Officer Mark Shapiro acknowledged giving Graboff and NBC the impression that the HFPA did have final approval over any new television deal. Shapiro said he did that because he gambled that using HFPA as a ‘higher authority’ would give him leverage with Graboff. Shapiro did not say he outright lied to Graboff, opting instead to call it a ‘negotiating strategy.’

It seemed to have worked as NBC ended up agreeing to the average annual rights fee of $21.5 million to keep the show on the network through 2018. NBC wanted additional rights for the Golden Globes, including for the red carpet preshow that airs before the ceremony.

However, Dick Clark Productions did not have the right to negotiate that deal without HFPA approval so Shapiro, much to NBC’s chagrin, refused to cut a deal that include both the main event and the preshow.

NBC’s ‘butts were kicked,’ Graboff said in his pretrial deposition referring to the negotiations with Shapiro and Dick Clark Productions.

For the second consecutive day, the subject of CBS becoming a bidder for the Golden Globes emerged as a topic of discussion. On Thursday, it was revealed that in 2010 then-HFPA President Philip Berk had met with CBS Chief Executive Les Moonves to discuss the show moving to CBS. It has been suggested that Moonves, who will either offer written testimony or appear in person next week, said he was willing to pay between $25 million and $30 million for the Golden Globes.

NBC’s Graboff said Shapiro and WME talent agent Ari Emanuel, who was working with Dick Clark Productions, also implied that NBC should hurry up and renew the Globes because CBS was out there with an open wallet. Graboff said that wasn’t a factor in NBC’s negotiations.

‘Les Moonves is everybody’s favorite stalking horse,’ Graboff cracked.

Graboff was asked by Judge Howard Matz if he would have signed off on the deal with Shapiro if HFPA had reached out to him and explained that the association was at odds with Dick Clark Productions over their current agreement.

‘We would’ve stopped it,’ Graboff said referring to the negotiations with Shapiro.


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-- Joe Flint

Top photo: Former NBC executive Marc Graboff. Credit: NBC