THB #221: The Non-Moral Problem With The Globes Return
Too much on awards this week…
I decided yesterday not to write about the moral grotesquerie of the return of The Golden Globes after they have spent the last 18 months playing the game of trying out new angles of self-legitimization, one after the other, until they could get NBC/Universal to rationalize putting the show on the air, even though the organization has become significantly less transparent, more self-dealing, and openly 100% FOR profit, including direct cash payments to members of just under $1500 a week for doing nothing more than voting for awards.
Not gonna get into that. (Well… I am. But I’m going to restrain myself from raging… as best I can.)
But reading the Variety coverage (without disclosure of its company’s relationship to HFPA, though I consider Michael Schneider a legit journalist) of the return, I was struck by how this deal was dangerous for The Academy, as it changes the current ecosystem.
The new deal is for one year. And you can be sure that the pricing is not close to the $60 million a year that was once the deal with NBC.
What is not reported, I guess because journalists don’t have access to reportable facts, is the drip, drip, drip method that Todd Boehly, as the leader and now owner of HFPA, Dick Clark Productions, The Beverly Hilton Hotel, and partner with Penske Media, has used to get to this moment.
HFPA was assisted in all of this by the current obsession with inclusion in the industry, which took a quite deep and complex look at HFPA in the LA Times and reduced it to the lack of Black members in the group of under 100. The legit concern about this was complicated by the fact that every distributor and publicist that worked with HFPA knew this fact and knew of the inequity for decades.
So HFPA started bringing on willing organizations involved with inclusion.
Last October, HFPA announced, “The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is continuing its reform efforts, announcing today a five-year partnership with the NAACP for what they’re calling the “Reimagine Coalition.”
I can find no mention of the Reimagine Coalition since it’s announcement… not by HFPA and certainly not in the news of the return to NBC, not even in support of the choice… except for a $400,000 payment to the NAACP in July.
In other words, it didn’t work to get them on the air in January 2022 and there is no indication that the NAACP is in any way associated with HFPA at this time.
Has anyone heard from Chief Diversity Officer Neil Phillips since his hire?
Aside from adding 8 Black members and giving away some money, has HFPA done anything they promised regarding diversity?
One of the most consistent demands on HFPA was to add enough membership to prevent the group, as a matter of math, to take many of the advantages they have abused over recent years. They added just 21 new members, including 8 Black members, still keeping the group well within the threshhold as payable in cash.
Then there was the attempt to bring on Fipresci as added votes and legitimacy… until Fipresci realized they were being used and withdrew.
After a coalition led by Cheryl Boone Isaacs tried to buy HFPA, the organization chose instead to be purchased by Todd Boehly. Part of that agreement was an annual $75,000 payment to every full member of the group, at an annual cost of just under $8 million.
Didn’t seem to bother anyone.
Scott Feinberg was fed and reported that The Globes were returning on August 9. But NBC was not actually in.
Boehly, fighting fiercly like an animal in a trap, moved HFPA, after Telluride, onto adding 103 new voters who are NOT members of the group… meaning they don’t need to get paid… but they can pretend to add diversity. HFPA now claims it “is now 52% female, 51.5% racially and ethnically diverse, with 19.5% Latinx, 12% Asian, 10% Black and 10% Middle Eastern,” including the new non-member voters in this “achievement.”
It was still another 12 days before the official announcement.
It seems pretty clear that Boehly reduced the financial demand from NBC to air the show, which when last aired drew 6.9 million households, and let NBC off the hook from its multi-year deal, agreeing to a 1-show “prove it” deal.
The strength and the weakness of awards shows in this market is that they are not shows that people watch (in any significant numbers) after the show’s live event airing. Some shows may end up on streaming, as streaming tries to build up their live content offerings… but like live sports, the financial value is in drawing an audience as the event happens.
Further lowering the quality of opportunity for both HFPA and NBC is a Tuesday show date (January 10, 2023). Just last week, The Academy of Country Music Honors aired on FOX on Tuesday and came in a distant 4th with under 2 million viewers. The ACM Awards, in April, drew 6.3 million viewers on CBS… an all-time low. Both shows were produced by Boehly’s MRC Live & Alternative.
So how much is NBC paying for The Golden Globes and how much of a price cut is it from the $60 million of their previous deal?
Production costs are about $20 million and Boehly’s HFPA is committed to about $8 million in member salaries. So $30 million seems like the bottom possible price. Did Boehly finally crack and “let” NBC give him $40 million for a year of The Globes? $50 million?
Here’s The Academy part…
They have a $120 million a year deal with ABC.
Fortunately, there is not going to be a moral meltdown at The Academy, allowing ABC to simply withdraw… not that they want to do so.
But after the worst 5 years of ratings in the history of Oscar, that price point for the 4 hour block of programming is thin-air high.
I don’t have the ABC/Academy contract, but there have been clear signals that ABC paid The Academy less than their full payout for the last 2 years at least. And there are rumors in the industry that ABC has ways to exit the deal (set until 2028) entirely, if it so sees fit.
After all the talk from pro-HFPA industry folks about “getting back to business,” The Golden Globes are coming back to network television significantly hobbled. Talent may all show up. Some may not. But that is inside baseball for an award show that needs to find 10 million viewers to show up at NBC on a Tuesday night. The Emmys, on a Monday, just drew under 6 million. We are a few steps, it seems, from getting back to business.
If The Globes only return to 8.5 million viewers, hopes for Oscar to get past 20 million will be lowered considerably.
If Oscar cannot improve significantly on last year’s 16.6 million, it will remain under pressure at ABC, which may not want out of their deal, but could easily demand that the payday be reduced by as much as a third, which would make it hard for The Academy to make its annual nut (basic budget).
Many people talk about awards shows being “over,” without much thought. It feels that way. I get that. But the specific definition means a lot to me.
So… in a weird way, The Academy is now in a position where it has to be rooting for The Golden Globes to either come back strong or die after this year, opening up the door that they have refused for many years… a January Oscar show.
Gonna be interesting…
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