NATAS recruits search firm to find new leader

Aug 27, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Wanted: One very strong, organized, industrious and creative executive who can protect baby while changing bath water.
A recruitment firm and a search committee are on the hunt for a new president for the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences
A leading recruitment firm, Korn/Ferry International, and a national search committee, appointed by the NATAS board of trustees are on the hunt for the man or woman who can take over the organization that John Cannon ran in a highly personalized fashion for 25 years before he died in June.
Overseeing the search is Stanley Hubbard, the head of Hubbard Broadcasting and the chairman of NATAS for the past three years.
Mr. Hubbard speaks gracefully and simply about keeping politics out of the search; about new management dynamics as a given, not a repudiation; and about being open to change but not to “tinkering with the Emmy.”
“This is the most prestigious award in television, and we aim to keep it that way,” he said.
The Emmy and differing methods of deciding who gets them have been forever at the heart of the differences between New York-based NATAS, which dispenses Daytime, News and Sports Emmys, and the Hollywood-based Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, which presents Primetime Emmys.
The Emmy also represents a business challenge facing both ATAS, which has undergone its own leadership and management changes in the past three years, and NATAS. Both non-profit academies are nearing the end of their TV contracts, which many feel have seriously undervalued the Emmy broadcasts.
Sources say the license fee for the Primetime Emmys, which will be presented Sept. 16 on CBS this year and on Fox next fall, is nearly $3 million. Last year, said those sources, ABC generated $20 million to $30 million on a broadcast that cost only $3 million to produce.
The Daytime Emmys, a staple of May sweeps that will air on CBS next spring, brings a license fee of some $1.5 million. It cost NBC probably $1 million to produce last May and generated north of $5 million in revenue for the network. (In comparison, the Oscars command a reported $40 million and the Grammys some $24 million.)
An improved TV deal was the key campaign issue for Bryce Zabel, the writer-producer who will be installed as ATAS chairman and CEO in October.
“We seek nothing but a fair deal,” said Mr. Zabel, who said both academies “face the same market dynamics.”
Jim Chabin, who was the president of Promax and BDA before becoming president of ATAS 21/2 years ago, has a day-to-day perspective and reels off a variety of issues-from runaway production and ageism to digitization, consolidation, globalization and deregulation-facing both academies’ leadership.
He has a long-standing relationship with Mr. Hubbard, who was to meet Mr. Zabel for the first time at Sunday night’s “TV Night at the Hollywood Bowl” and for breakfast Monday morning.
“This isn’t a summit conference,” said Mr. Zabel, who spoke often during his campaign for the ATAS chairmanship of “detente” between the two TV academies.
“Anything that should be happening in terms of reaching out that olive branch I think is being done,” Mr. Zabel said.
Tom O’Neil, the pre-eminent historian of the Emmys, said, “It is very understandable why John Cannon never sought rapprochement, because those wounds were not only severe, they were deep. … Now he’s gone and everyone knows that reunification is inevitable. It’s just insane to have two different TV academies bestowing the same award two different ways. Everybody knows that, and now it is a very opportune time to reconsider the issue.”
Talk show host Maury Povich, who is president of New York’s NATAS chapter and vice chairman of NATAS, sounds more cautious, “We are not mirror organizations. They are a group that is focused on Los Angeles. We represent [18] chapters all over the country. … I think that we both have the opportunity to be two very strong organizations. If there comes a time for us to get together for some discussion, I think that’s fine. I think the door isn’t closed either way.”
Mr. Povich is likewise accommodating of the past and the need to change in the future.
The ideal candidate to become president, he said, will “keep a lot of the ideals that John had. … John was an old-school guy. He just took it upon himself to do it all himself. And that has to change.”

The new NATAS president will have a support team that understands “we have to get into the 21st Century,” Mr. Povich said.