Golden Globes Trial: Les Moonves Says CBS Might Have Bid $25 Million for Show

Les Moonves
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"Wireless is worthless if you're hitless. They need us. They need us in the system."

Day five of the trial over the broadcast rights to the Golden Globes between the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and Dick Clark Productions was an intense battle over a very narrow subject: Did the HFPA really vote in 2001 to extend it’s deal with DCP and NBC for ten years?

If it did, say the lawyers for DCP, then the group did not need to vote in 2010 when it extended its contract once again with NBC. Or at least that is the theory the group is pushing before Judge A. Howard Matz in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom.

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Separately, a video of CBS chief Leslie Moonves giving his testimony in the case, accompanied by a transcript, was made public today after it was filed late Monday. Moonves says in his video that he might have bid at least $25 million for the rights to the awards telecast, but that was only the opening of negotiations.

DCP lawyers have objected to the Moonves testimony claiming it is not relevant. Sources close to DCP point out the average broadcast fee of just over $21 million a shows it negotiated with NBC for the telecast only, and does not include a pre-show, a post-show or digital rights, so the ultimately package would be more in any case.

On Tuesday, however, it was clear the goal of the DCP lawyers, led by Bradley Phillips and Martin Katz, was to prove it had no need to get permission from the HFPA to make a new deal with NBC as long as it did so within a certain window following the 2010 broadcast, which was the last under the old contract.

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Phillips was especially pointed in his probing all afternoon Monday of Lorenzo Soria, a former board member and president of the HFPA, who has been a member of the press group behind the Globes since October 1989.

Phillips repeated asked Soria, who writes about Hollywood for publications in Italy, about meetings of the HFPA board and membership in June, July and August of 2001, when the group extended a deal with DCP first made in 1993; and went along with a new ten year pact to broadcast the Globes on NBC. Soria said he remembered that they had discussed it and approved the DCP extension and NBC deal; but he was inconsistent.

Phillips pointed out that in a sworn statement filed in the case before the trial, Soria seemed to make clear statements about what happened, but on the stand could not recall the details or documents cited in his declaration.

Daniel Petrocellli, the lead attorney for the HFPA, along with attorney Linda Smith, continued to seek to prove that the press group had exercised its right as owner of the Golden Globes to approve any new contracts; and that it never intended to make a deal with DCP in perpetuity as long as the show remained on NBC.

The clear implication was that the HFPA lawyers had inserted things in the declaration to make their case that the group’s approval was needed; while Soria, speaking slowly most of the time and looking uncomfortable,  did not actually seem to be able to make the same connection on the stand.

The morning was spent Monday with more than three hours of testimony from Chantal Dinnage, who started with the HFPA as an office assistant in 1993 and in 1999 rose to become office manager. Katz questioned her intensely about what meetings she had attended, what records the group kept and whether or not HFPA had approved earlier deals involving DCP and NBC.  Dinnage for the most part simply indicated she was there to provide support and could not pin down the details of what the board had done or what happened at monthly membership meetings.

Testimony resumes Wednesday with Soria still on the stand. Among those still to testify are Phillip Berk, who was president of the HFPA in 2010 when the legal battle erupted after he found out DCP had made a new deal with NBC without seeking the press group's approval. Industry veteran David Tenzer is also expected to testify.

It appears that Dick Clark will  not be called to testify. It is also unlikely that DCP will call former HFPA president Mirjana Van Blaricom, who made the 1993 deal with DCP and NBC, but then left the group in a dispute in the early 1990s.

Judge Matz has made clear he wants to see testimony in the trial end by Friday, when he plans a half-day session. That would then pave the way for final arguments early next week; and his decision some time after that.

However, based on the pace of testimony so far, getting through the witness list by Friday may be difficult.