THB #195: Part 1 - The Journey To An HFPA With ZERO Oversight
I was in the audience for the first American Comedy Awards. It was a rubber chicken affair. But I got to hang out for the evening with James Bacon, which was great fun. I was not a journalist at the time (1987). I worked for Marty Ingels, who had a business putting celebrities in ads and doing personal appearances.
George Schlatter created the event, got a deal with ABC, and there we all were, in tuxes at The Palladium. It was complete bullshit. I mean, there was the idea of honoring comedians, which was legit. But this show was based on who would attend and who George liked, etc. There was a head nod to the idea of a committee voting… but a pal of mine had voted… and he wasn’t funny. It was a TV show pretending to be an award show… all in fun.
Damned if the thing didn’t last 15 years!!!
The People’s Choice Awards were created in 1975 by a guy named Bob Stivers who made a show based on popularity surveys that were already being done by Gallup. The show was sold to Proctor & Gamble in 1982 and then sold it to E! in 2017. Last year, the show ran on E! and NBC in December.
Carlos de Abreu started running his scam, The Hollywood Film Awards, in 1997. It was a brilliant scam. It was attached to a low-rent film festival, The Hollywood Film Festival. And Carlos’ award thing was to honor people who rarely get honored (and some who did). So if you want Steven Spielberg to show up, you honor his costume designer or editor and boom, Spielberg arrives and legitimizes the event.
The for-profit event was dubious, in that it negotiated for awards and chose awards only by whim. I admit, I was one of those who lunched with Carlos de Abreu each summer for years to tell him who was likely to be Oscar nominated so he could focus his talent search. As the show became more popular - The Weinsteins led the way - he would just create new awards for whomever wanted them and was willing to buy a few more tables. When we discussed the idea of making the kinda-attached film festival better, he always expressed passion… and that he would do anything that wouldn’t cost him any more money than would dip into his meager profit on the festival he used to ligitimize the highly profitable awards.
In September 2012, Guggenheim Partners and a few other partners bought Dick Clark Productions (DCP). In 2013, DCP bought Carlos de Abreu’s The Hollywood Film Awards with the idea of putting it on TV.
Not coincidentally, in 2014, DCP was in a legal battle with the HFPA over rights to broadcast the then-hot Golden Globes show. Basically, it came down to the question of whether HFPA could stay on NBC - a deal made initially by DCP - and have someone else produce the TV show, cutting DCP out. So Hollywood Film Awards was leverage against HFPA, as in “if you push to hard, we will put this show in your slot and show you how people really feel about your organization when you aren’t giving them a big TV audience.”
HFPA and Dick Clark Productions settled in July 2014.
But they had paid for this monstrosity - that had publicist support - and they decided that maybe they could own the road to Oscar with 2 shows.
The Hollywood Film Awards aired on CBS in November 2014.
No one watched.
CBS dropped it. No one else would pay for it.
Consultants tortured their talent for 5 more years, asking them to show up for an award show without a broadcast and which no one cared about, hoping it would find its footing and return to TV. But it did not.
By the way… who was the president of Guggenheim during all this?
One of Boehly’s investments while at Guggenheim was in MRC, a producer of quality TV and film, including House of Cards, the cornerstone of the Netflix Original streaming business.
In 2015, Boehly left the presidency of Guggenheim and bought some of its assets, including The Hollywood Reporter and Dick Clark Productions.
In 2018, Boehly merged his media assets with Dick Clark Productions and MRC and call the combined assets Valence.
In Summer 2020, Valence changed its name to MRC and set up a series of MRC-named divisions.
In Fall 2020, MRC partnered with Penske Media to form PMRC, bringing together The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Rolling Stone, and Dick Clark Productions, amongst others. PMRC ownership does not include Deadline or Indiewire.
“The second joint venture is a new content partnership that will “activate the power of the production infrastructure and expertise of MRC across PMRC intellectual property,” the companies said. MRC will be “tasked with mining the collective brand IP across all of its content divisions including television, film, live and alternative and nonfiction.”
In 2021, PMRC bough 50% of SXSW. Penske Media purchased the whole of Cannes’ American Pavillion.
In February 2021, the LA Times ran a deep-dive analysis of the HFPA and The Golden Globes. “Golden Globes voters in tumult: Members accuse Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. of self-dealing, ethical lapses”
The piece featured a lot of details, like:
HFPA pulled in $27.4 million from NBC in 2020, up from $3.64 million in fiscal 2016-2017.
HFPA members collected nearly $2 million in payments from the group in its fiscal year ending in June 2020 for serving on various committees and performing other tasks — more than double the level three years earlier.
As of the end of October 2020, the HFPA had just over $50 million in cash on hand, internal financial documents show.
Two dozen members on the foreign film viewing committee each received $3,465 to watch foreign film,
In October 2020, the annual grants dinner was held virtually. Three members earned $8,000 each for working at the event.
Multiple HFPA members have offered to take $5,000 to $10,000 to lobby other members to vote for a particular film.
But none of that seemed to bother people as much as the sidebar story…
Who really gives out the Golden Globes? A tiny group full of quirky characters — and no Black members.
In May, Netflix became the first major distributor to pull out of the 2022 Globes. Everyone else soon follows, including NBC.
After a summer of internal fights, ranging from “we need to do something” to “everyone can fuck off,” Todd Boehly assumes the CEO role at HFPA in October and starts working in earnest towards the revival of the self-tarnished brand.
Boehly made connections with groups like the NAACP and others. He tried a wide array of angles to try to turn some of the negative voices.
By the spring of 2021, HFPA had decided to put itself up for sale.
According to the LA Times, there was an offer on the table from a group led by Cheryl Boone Isaacs that would pay every member $120,000 a year for at least 5 years, plus a flat payment of $100,000 per member, plus a $5 million endowment into which the members could dip (more than $50k per member). That’s a payday of $750,000 a member, most of whom are in their 60s or older. Almost $70 million directly into the existing members’ pockets in the next 5 years.
It wasn’t enough.
The press release came over the “wire” at 4pm.
LA Times - Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. approves sale of Golden Globes assets to Todd Boehly
According to the LAT, “under the deal, HFPA members would be paid $75,000 annually for several years under this deal, according to two members who declined to be named as they are not authorized to speak publicly.”
I assume that the truly bizarre press release was a function of not wanting to get sued (or get Boehly sued) by Boone Issacs’ group, especially when it seems to be the lesser offer.
That said, it isn’t likely less than the Boone Isaacs group was offering.
We will never know, unless the information leaks through members.
What we do know is that if The Golden Globes keeps netting $25 million a year for 5 years, Boone Isaacs’ group offer was too high for Boehly to make a significant profit on the deal in that term.
What Boehly and all of his partnerships (including the trades) can do to mine The Golden Globes to make even more, aside from just the show… more so than anyone else in the industry right now.
Under the current deal with NBC, it seems they pay roughly $60 million a year for the show, half of which goes directly to HFPA and $30 million of which goes to Dick Clark Productions (currently under another name… but I’ll leave that for now). Production is probably $15m - $20m. So Boehly’s holding company should be about $10 - $15 million in profit annually.
The most current not-for-profit paperwork says HFPA has $15 million in expenses each year, including $6 million in grants. Split the additional $15 million or so by 100 and that’s $1.5 million a year per member.
Even if the group increased expenses by $5 million a year as a result of converting to a for-profit, that’s still a million per member a year.
Even if Boehly is taking 25% for protection (“It’d be a shame if you went with Cheryl and that NBC deal got broken and no one else wanted you.”), it’s still $750k a year per member.
I don’t know what the deal is exactly. And going private insures that I - and you - never will.
What I know is that we can’t pretend that this is a group of film writers giving awards for the love of film. This is a major business transaction with a lot of money on the table.
And we can’t really pretend that exposing their malfeasance is not currently being positioned as an opportunity for much more significant malfeasance… unless you think they all deserve $500k+ checks if the show gets back to air this coming January.
(Part 2: Where The For-Profit Globes Could Take Us will post on Friday…)