TV Guide Channel and E! are working on a deal that will allow Joan and Melissa Rivers back on the red carpet for the 2005 Emmy Awards, sources said.
Though nothing is final, TV Guide is negotiating to pay E! an undisclosed sum to allow the red carpet queens to cover the annual awards for TV Guide Channel. Representatives for E! denied the talks while TV Guide Channel declined to comment.
At the same time, sources said, the networks are finalizing plans for the Rivers duo to face off on the red carpet with Star Jones at the Golden Globes. That would mark the first time the red carpet teams would go head-to-head since Ms. Jones replaced Joan and Melissa Rivers at E! for coverage of the 2004 Emmys.
TV Guide lured Joan and Melissa Rivers from their longtime home at E! Networks in July, only to discover E! had an exclusive two-year red carpet coverage deal with the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences that is valid through next year (TelevisionWeek, Sept. 27). The deal effectively prevents any potential E! competitors from airing live pre-awards coverage without the network’s permission.
The contract left Joan and Melissa Rivers unable to cover the event and E! without talent to host its annual “Countdown to the Red Carpet” program-traditionally one of the network’s highest-rated shows. A week before the awards, E! tapped “The View” co-host Ms. Jones to lead a red carpet team.
Though critics panned Ms. Jones’ performance, her coverage matched last year’s 1.92 household rating despite a significant drop in viewership for the actual awards. The rating bolstered E!’s confidence in Ms. Jones, and sources said the network has signed her to cover the Golden Globes in January. The Globes will also be Joan Rivers’ red carpet premiere for TV Guide, creating the prospect of a head-to-head red-carpet showdown between the affable Ms. Jones and the acerbic Ms. Rivers for their respective networks.
The pressure on both channels to negotiate is due to the tangled dealings of their respective parent companies, sources said. The Walt Disney Co. and Comcast own E!, but Comcast also has a $250 million investment in TV Guide’s program-guide technology. TV Guide’s parent Gemstar is owned by News Corp., whose Fox brands have numerous interactions with both networks and Comcast.
“TV Guide has the full weight of Comcast and Fox to make sure their investment is fully realized,” said a source. “That means having [Joan and Melissa] cover every major red carpet event-The Globes, Emmys and Oscars.”
After 2005 the academy will be free to re-examine its agreement with E!, but sources said the arrangement is unlikely to be renewed.
An academy spokesperson released the following statement: “The Television Academy presently has a mutually beneficial agreement with E! that runs through the 57th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards this coming September. It is premature to speculate on any further developments at this time.”