TV Execs Race to Book O.J. Simpson for Interview
There is a quiet acknowledgement, however, that there is potential for a backlash given his pariah status.
O.J. Simpson’s parole hearing in Nevada on Thursday has the makings of a media circus. At least 240 media credentials have been issued, according to the Nevada Department of Corrections, with dozens of satellite trucks expected in Carson City, where the hearing will take place, and Lovelock, where Simpson has been incarcerated for the past eight years.
Legal experts expect Simpson, who was sentenced in 2008 for armed robbery and assault, to be granted parole, which means he could be out of prison by October. (Update: Simpson was granted parole later on Thursday.)
News divisions are already in a race to book Simpson for his first post-parole television sit-down.
"I don't think there is a news organization in the U.S. that wouldn't want an interview with O.J. Simpson," says one TV news executive. "Whether you consider him a murderer or not, he is a newsmaker."
Indeed, the intense public interest in ESPN's seven-plus hour Oscar-winning documentary O.J.: Made in America, as well as Ryan Murphy's FX miniseries, has proved that more than 20 years after he was acquitted of the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, fascination persists.
TV news bookers are working contacts close to Simpson, including friends and family. But so far, no one has emerged as a frontrunner in the Simpson sweepstakes. And many news executives, none of whom would speak on the record, acknowledge that there is potential for a backlash given Simpson's pariah status.
Judith Regan, of course, found that out the hard way when the erstwhile HarperCollins editor in 2006 cooked up a supposed confessional If I Did It and television special and was sacked by Rupert Murdoch for her efforts. The Goldman and Brown families won a $33 million civil judgment against Simpson. Fred Goldman, Ron's father, was later awarded rights to If I Did It.
All of the TV news executives and producers that The Hollywood Reporter spoke to stressed their established and long-standing policies against paying for interviews. And many noted that they also would not enter into an expensive licensing deal with Simpson for photos or videos; a practice that has long been considered a fig leaf and came to a head with the Casey Anthony trial.
"I'm not worried about blowback, this isn''t an Alex Jones situation," said a second news executive referring to the reaction to NBC News anchor Megyn Kelly's interview with the alt-right conspiracy theorist.
It's unclear if Simpson will court the spotlight after nine years in a maximum-security prison. The snippets of Simpson since his arrest in Nevada — some of which were in Ezra Edelman's ESPN documentary — showed a far different man than the one American viewers watched during the so-called trial of the century. But if he did do an interview, it could very well be a blockbuster.
"Yes, there would probably some blowback, but also a tremendous amount of interest," said one source. "Perhaps unprecedented interest."