Nets want press tour to pass on Pasadena

Mar 25, 2002  •  Post A Comment

For the past eight years, the Television Critics Association has gathered at the Ritz-Carlton in Pasadena, Calif., twice as regularly as the swallows return to Capistrano.
The TV networks would like very much for that to change.
After months of conference calls, tours of alternative sites for the January and July dog-and-pony shows and haggling over room rates, the two sides remain far apart. The TCA membership says it wants to stay in Pasadena. The networks are lobbying to have at least one tour a year at a hotel more conveniently located to most network and studio campuses.
The TCA membership-about 200 or so print reporters from the United States and Canada-says the resortlike Ritz-Carlton Hotel is comfortable and knows the drill: faxes and messages must be delivered ASAP-and to the correct rooms; computer hookups in rooms must work; and room rates must be capped if attendance by critics is to be maximized. Indeed, the Ritz has held room rates to a quaint $125 a night.
The networks, whose TCA presentations cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, are leaning toward the brand-new Renaissance Hollywood Hotel in the Hollywood and Highland complex.
The networks even got the Renaissance to offer beyond-quaint room rates of $119 a night for the critics. Indeed, the networks are offering to pay higher rates to make up the difference, figuring they could still save on expenses because the hotel would be in town, not in far-off Pasadena, where the 2002 summer tour will be held.
The networks would be ecstatic if the critics agreed to try the Renaissance for both 2003 tours, but they’d be happy if the critics would even be willing to forgo pastoral Pasadena just for the winter tour as a test.
The TCA can indeed hold the networks hostage in Pasadena. However, the critics might find themselves offered fewer sessions, fewer stars attending ancillary events and more executives increasingly unhappy about making the long schlep only to find the critics’ attention span has succumbed to a number of pressures.
The Ritz-Carlton, argued TCA President Diane Werts, “has it down to a science” and is focused only on the critics tour, whereas the bigger Renaissance is likely to have multiple groups in-house at the same time.
“I don’t want to move my people solely for the benefit of the networks,” she said. “I just want to get the best deal for my people. I guess if somebody can give us $99 a night, I guess we would have to go.”