By ANTHONY McCARTNEY, Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Testimony concluded Tuesday in a trial that will decide whether the Golden Globe Awards remain on NBC through 2018 with a federal judge strongly urging both sides to settle before a ruling is necessary.
U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz warned attorneys for the Globes' organizers, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and its longtime producers that he would declare a clear winner, which could result in the Globes being tangled up on appeal for another awards season.
The case involves a $150 million deal that dick clark productions, also known as dcp, negotiated with NBC in 2010. The glitzy awards gala has aired on the network since 1996, but the HFPA contends the company had no right to enter the deal or to continue working on the show without its authorization.
Attorneys for dcp, which is no longer owned by entertainment pioneer Dick Clark, argue a nearly 20-year-old agreement gives the company rights to work on the Globes for as long as it airs on NBC.
After hearing nine days of testimony, Matz set closing arguments in the case for Friday and urged both sides to make another attempt at reconciliation.
"Somebody's going to win and somebody's going to lose," Matz said. "It's not going to be a compromise."
He said if he ruled it would leave a legal cloud over the Globes as faced during this year's show, in which both sides agreed to allow the show to be produced under the disputed terms of the NBC deal.
The contentious court fight wasn't apparent to audiences, but the HFPA has said it needs the case to be resolved so that it can plan for future broadcasts.
Matz said it was clear that a settlement could be achieved, and that the attorneys should speak to their clients about "whether it's time for (them) to come to their senses." The judge did not signal which side he expected to prevail, and praised attorneys for both parties for the clear way they organized and argued the case.
The dispute centers on dueling interpretations of a 1993 agreement that dcp claims gives it rights to negotiate broadcast deals for the Globes and work on the show for as long as it airs on NBC. The HFPA disputes the so-called "perpetuity clause" and claims if it were deemed valid, the association would lose control of its sole asset.
The association sued in November 2010 after the NBC extension was inked and both sides have fought hard to confirm their interpretations of the agreement.
Among the witnesses called were longtime members and leaders of the HFPA, current and former dcp executives, attorneys and experts. It also featured the videotaped testimony of CBS CEO Les Moonves, who said he was willing to pay more for rights to the show and thought his network could better promote it.
Moonves testified he was prepared to pay $25 million or more a year for the Globes before the NBC deal was announced. Moonves said he spoke with the HFPA's then-president about possibly bringing the Globes back to CBS, which dropped the awards in the early 1980s after a scandal over how the group decided to present Pia Zadora a best newcomer award.
He said after the NBC extension was announced, he was surprised to learn of its terms.
"It was odd," Moonves said. "It was a very odd deal."
If the association wins, it would be the first time in nearly 30 years it will be able to negotiate a new production and broadcast deal on its own terms. The show had been knocked from broadcast television and relegated to late-night airings after its members were accused of receiving favors in exchange for giving actress Zadora the award, although Clark's company was eventually able to get it a cable television deal and then bring it to NBC in 1996.
If the production company prevails, it will retain its right to work on a show that attracted nearly 17 million viewers this year and each year provides glimpses of top television and film actors mingling in a banquet setting.
The association and production company split the show's earnings equally after costs are factored in.
Although the Globes aren't a reliable predictor of who will win on Oscar night, it has remained a key source of buzz in recent years as three-time host Ricky Gervais has lobbed caustic barbs at Hollywood's elite and the evening's guests and their fashion are analyzed for days.