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Broadcast Threatens HBO Emmy Boycott

Should Home Box Office's bid to the host the Primetime Emmy Awards succeed, the cable industry could be poised to win a boatload of statues.

That's because news of HBO's move to secure the annual Academy of Television Arts & Sciences awards show has prompted complaints from the broadcast networks and threats to boycott TV's big night.

HBO, according to sources, was close to finalizing a five-year pact to televise the show, beginning in 2003. The deal would pay ATAS some $10 million annually, while HBO would also pay for production costs for the show -- in the $5 million to $6 million range. The premium network would also shell out big bucks for promotion.

Under the most recent "wheel" format -- in which ABC, Fox, CBS and NBC rotated the show on an annual basis -- the license fee was some $3 million per year. Sources indicated that the four networks were now offering about $3.5 million annually.

Some suggested that a last-minute offer by the networks, which saw their negotiating window expire in mid-October, might be forthcoming.

ATAS officials were expected to meet with HBO officials to finalize an agreement, which would then have to be approved at the Academy's board of governors' meeting Wednesday night.

A spokeswoman for ATAS offered no update on the negotiations Tuesday afternoon, saying an announcement would be made Wednesday.

HBO representatives could not be reached by press time.
CBS was vehement in its opposition to the awards migrating to cable, with a spokesman indicating that not only would "Black Rock" counterprogram the fete, but it would "no longer support the Emmys and withdraw all support from ATAS."

While it was unclear at press time how HBO would distribute the show, there was talk that the signal would be made available, essentially converting the premium network into a basic channel for a night.

Others indicated that HBO might allow other AOL Time Warner Inc. vehicles like Turner Network Television, TBS Superstation or The WB Television Network in on the action in the way of a simulcast or a subsequent broadcast.