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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Rise of Spanish Language Programming in English. Motion Picture Home to Remain Open. Battle over the Globes.

A legal battle is going over the Golden Globes TV deal
Ricky Gervais hosting the Golden Globes. 

Foreign Press vs. All American Dick Clark Productions (Clark is no longer a part of the company). The strategy of the Golden Globes owner, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., in its legal fight with Dick Clark Productions over who controls the television rights for the awards show became clear during the first day of the trial at U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles.

The battle grew out of a 2010 deal that Dick Clark Productions, which has produced the show for HFPA for almost 30 years, made with NBC to keep the Golden Globes on the network through 2018. That deal, worth about $150 million, was to go into effect starting with this year's show. Soon after Dick Clark Productions and NBC signed the contract, the HFPA filed a lawsuit charging that Dick Clark Productions violated the partnership because it did not have the organization's approval to renew the deal with NBC.

Dick Clark Productions has countered that a 1993 amendment to its partnership with the HFPA gave it the rights to to negotiate with NBC in perpetuity without the HFPA's consent, which would allow it to continue to be a 50-50 partner with the HFPA on the show. The HFPA disagrees.

"The contract says no such thing," said Daniel Petrocelli, the O'Melveny & Myers lawyer who is representing the HFPA, in his opening remarks. He added that the actions of Dick Clark Productions prevented "the rights from being sold to the highest bidder." The suggestion that HFPA would have signed an agreement that would allow that, he said, "defies common sense."

Petrocelli spent the first day of the trial grilling Fran LaMaina, the retired president of Dick Clark Productions who oversaw the company and its deal-making with the HFPA in 1993. Petrocelli kept asking LaMaina if the executive had made to clear to HFPA in 1993 how significant that amendment was to Dick Clark Productions.

"It was not my responsibility," LaMaina said in response, adding that he didn't think he "misled the Hollywood Foreign Press."

What Petrocelli appears to be trying to establish, however, is not that LaMaina should have told HFPA what Dick Clark Productions thought the amendment meant. Rather he is attempting to show that LaMaina and DCP did not have that interpretation of the amendment at the time. Getting LaMaina to acknowledge that he never discussed the idea that Dick Clark Productions would have the rights to co-produce the show in perpetuity as long as NBC held the rights seems aimed at proving that Dick Clark Productions is engaged in revisionist history and only recently decided that this amendment gave them the rights to renegotiate with NBC without HFPA approval.

LaMaina is expected to testify for much of Wednesday as well. Later in the week, current Dick Clark Productions President Mark Shapiro is expected to take the stand, as is former NBC business affairs head Marc Graboff, who was involved in negotiating the deal.

Hot market. Just days after News Corp.'s Fox announced it was launching a Spanish-language broadcast network in the United States, Mexican programming giant Televisa said it has struck a deal with production company Lions Gate to produce programming to sell in the U.S. Details from the Wall Street Journal and Los Angeles Times.

 Actors Fernando Colunga and Lucero in Televisa's telenovela "Soy Tu Duena," which produced huge ratings in the U.S. for the Univision network. Credit: Antonio Uribe / Univision

Spanish production gears to English Speaking Audiences. Santa Monica-based independent studio Lionsgate and Mexico's programming powerhouse Grupo Televisa are expanding their budding partnership with a new venture that aims to create television shows for English-language audiences.

The move continues a trend of major media companies in the U.S. looking south to Latin America for programming concepts and business partners. Earlier this week, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. said it planned to launch a new broadcast network this fall in collaboration with Colombian broadcaster RCN.

Companies -- and advertisers -- are becoming increasingly interested in capitalizing on the growing clout of Latino consumers. They make up the fastest growing demographic group in the U.S.
Lionsgate and Televisa -- Mexico's largest media company -- said Tuesday that their new unit would tackle six to eight TV projects a year. The plan is to mine story lines from Televisa's vast vault of wildly popular telenovelas and adapt them into English-language comedies and dramas for U.S. broadcast networks and cable channels. Executives also intend to develop original concepts for scripted and unscripted shows.

The two companies first went into business in 2010 with a joint venture called Pantelion Films. Its purpose is to acquire and distribute feature films that appeal to Latinos in the U.S.

The parties declined to disclose financial terms of their new TV arrangement. The soon-to-be-named venture will be managed by Paul Presburger, chief executive of Pantelion Films. Presburger helped put the TV entity together with Lionsgate on behalf of Televisa.

Televisa separately has an equity stake in Univision Communications, the largest Spanish-language media company in the U.S. Televisa's programming fuels the prime-time ratings on the flagship Univision network, helping to build it into the nation's fifth most popular network.

A handful of projects already are in development for English-language programmers, including a comedic adaptation of Pantelion's first film, "From Prada to Nada." The firm is working on a scripted drama for ABC based on Televisa's smash hit "Soy Tu Duena." The new show will be called "Badlands."  Walt Disney Co.-owned ABC Studios is collaborating on the series.

Until now, little of Televisa's programming was accessible to mainstream audiences. The new development, unveiled at the National Assn. of Television Program Executives convention in Miami, followed Univision's announcement that it would begin adding English-language subtitles through closed caption to its prime-time telenovelas.

Rob Lowe's Lifetime movie did well
Rob Lowe and Kaley Cuoco in Lifetime's "Drew Peterson: Untouchable." Credit: Lifetime.

The Daily Dose: Lifetime's movie "Drew Peterson: Untouchable," starring a heavily made-up Rob Lowe as the suspected wife killer, drew almost 6 million viewers Sunday. Lifetime brass was quick to grab glory for the performance. "This is an amazing way to start the year and is a direct result of our aggressive strategy to green-light quality programming," said Lifetime President Nancy Dubuc. While she did green-light it, the movie was put into development by her predecessors at the channel. What will be interesting to see is whether its success will lead Lifetime, which has struggled to create new shows in the last few years, to return to its women-in-jeopardy roots and move away from trying so many reality programs.

We're watching. This is a little out of our entertainment wheelhouse, but given its aspirations in media it is worth noting Google's latest moves in tracking consumer habits, which could raise privacy issues. Google, of course, not only is the largest search engine, it also owns YouTube, has its own email platform and a TV application. More on what the "don't be evil" folks are planning from the Los Angeles Times and Wired.

I could have rented them my place for less money. Time Warner has created a lab in its corporate headquarters to observe how people consume media. The media giant will see how people interact with television, magazines and video games, and react to advertising. Sounds like one of these deals where a company spends tons of money to learn the obvious. On the other hand, next time I'm in New York and need to get out of the rain and use a bathroom, I'll know where to go. More from the New York Times.

Boys' club. The British government is probing the lack of women both on and off the air at the BBC. "It is an issue that we must keep pressing at," Broadcasting Minister Ed Vaizey was quoted saying in the Guardian. "Some people might regard it as frivolous or something that makes good copy for a parliamentary sketch, but … we want to hear a balance of voices on the radio and to see a balance of presenters on the television."

Taking on Netflix? Amazon is considering offering its own standalone streaming service that would compete against Netflix, says the New York Post.

Inside the Los Angeles Times: Still debating the Oscar nominations? So are we. Here's a story about how comedy fared and one about whether "The Artist" will get a box office boost from all its nominations.

-- Joe Flint

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