HBO vies for Emmys telecast

The Primetime Emmy Awards may be going to Home Box Office for five years
for an annual license fee of $10 million per year after broadcast networks
failed to pony up enough cash, sources said Monday.

The Emmys are much cheaper to license than either the Grammy Awards (for which CBS
has a five-year, $125 million deal) or the Oscars (for which ABC has a seven-year,
$350 million deal), sources said.

The Emmys also make less money -- between $15 million and $20 million -- but its
license fees have been around $3.5 million, sources said, with whatever network
is broadcasting the show paying about $3.5 million to produce it.

With the show offering such a large margin, Academy of Television Arts &
Sciences executives thought it was high time to ask the networks to pay
more for the awards gala.

But because the networks are suffering through tough times and layoffs,
network executives didn't jump at keeping the Emmys at the new price.

How the show is aired is already a touchy subject for the networks, because
whichever one has it that year gets a huge promotional platform right before the
launch of the fall season.

For that reason, the four major broadcast networks -- ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC
-- historically have rotated the broadcast each year, ensuring that each network
would continue to support the show.

If the Primetime Emmys go to HBO, it's quite possible the broadcast networks
will refuse to participate, making the number of stars in attendance much more
paltry and greatly reducing viewer interest in the show.

Moreover, even if HBO were to make the broadcast available to all basic-cable
viewers and rebroadcast the show on sister networks such as Turner Network Television and TBS Superstation, cable
and satellite distribution still leaves out 15 percent of U.S. TV viewers.

ATAS' board of governors is expected to vote on the pact Wednesday,
although some sources speculated that ATAS is hoping that the threat of moving the
show to cable will bring the broadcast networks back with a better offer.

"The Academy remains confident that the current
negotiations will lead to a substantial improvement in our license fee, allowing
us to dream bigger dreams for honoring and encouraging excellence in all aspects
of the television industry," ATAS chairman Bryce Zabel said.

Paige Albiniak

Contributing editor Paige Albiniak has been covering the business of television for nearly 25 years. She is a longtime contributor to Next TV, Broadcasting + Cable and Multichannel News. She concurrently serves as editorial director for entertainment marketing association Promax. She has written for such publications as TVNewsCheck, The New York Post, Variety, CBS Watch and more. Albiniak was B+C’s Los Angeles bureau chief from September 2002 to 2004, and an associate editor covering Congress and lobbying for the magazine in Washington, D.C., from January 1997-September 2002.