Hollywood Foreign Press Association Chairman Philip Berk and CBS President and CEO Les Moonves offered differing accounts of their conversations about rights to the Golden Globes show during court testimony Thursday in court.
For Berk, the talks with the network chief about whether the highly-rated awards show would migrate from NBC to CBS were “off the record” and “hypothetical,” and boiled down to a single lunch at the Four Seasons Hotel.
Yet for Moonves (left) the talks were more serious in nature.
“I thought we had an opportunity to truly be in the bidding,” Moonves said in a videotaped testimony presented in U.S. District Court.
But Berk (below right) said that the Golden Globes contract with NBC prohibited the HFPA from negotiating broadcasting rights with any competitors while the deal was still in force.
“I was not in a position to jeopardize the contract,” Berk said. “I knew I was not supposed to be talking to him.”
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Moonves and Berk’s testimonies are key to an ongoing legal scuffle between Dick Clark Productions and the HFPA, the non-profit group behind the Globes, over who controls the rights to the broadcast of the awards show.
The HFPA sued DCP and its parent company Red Zone Capital in November 2010, alleging that the production company negotiated a new contract with NBC without its consent and that by failing to put the rights out for bidding by other networks, potentially cost the organization millions of dollars.
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DCP claims that thanks to an amendment in its contract, the production company retains the rights to the broadcast every time it reaches a new deal with NBC. It also claims that it did not need the approval of the HFPA to extend the pact with the network.
Under the current pact with NBC, the network is shelling out $150 million over seven years for rights to the show. Moonves was called to testify to show that NBC got the Globes at a discount. In his deposition, the CBS chief said that he was willing to pay between $25 million to $30 million annually for five years.
How serious that offer was, is the subject of some dispute. While Berk said that he believed that the talks were limited to the 2010 lunch, Moonves said that the negotiations were more protracted, with several calls being placed between the two.
The men also disagreed about how the Four Seasons confab came about, with Berk saying the call came from Moonves and the CBS head countering that it was the HFPA official who initiated the discussion.
Berk said he was “flattered” by the lunch invitation and accepted because he had heard rumors that CBS and Fox were both interested in nabbing broadcast rights to the Globes.
Throughout the testimony, Berk painted himself as an official who left the particulars of the HFPA’s deals with DCP to others.
“i’m not concerned with the details of contracts,” Berk said.