ATAS Sues NATAS in Emmy Dispute

Mar 22, 2007  •  Post A Comment

The Los Angeles-based Academy of Television Arts & Science wants to prevent the New York-based National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences from awarding Emmys for digital content until the organizations come to a compromise under binding arbitration.

ATAS petitioned for a temporary injunction Thursday in U.S. District Court, Central District of California, Western Division, nearly a week after filing a demand with the American Arbitration Association to settle the dispute.

ATAS hands out the prime-time Emmys in a nationally broadcast ceremony. NATAS sponsors the news and documentary Emmys as well as the sports Emmys. NATAS also puts on the nationally televised daytime Emmys in cooperation with ATAS, which gets a cut of the revenues. (NATAS gets a bigger revenue cut from ATAS’ prime-time Emmy deal.)

The court and arbitration filings occurred after several months of discussion between the organizations that some people thought was leading to a bicoastal agreement on a broadband Emmy ceremony and perhaps even the long-stalled Spanish-language Emmys proposed by NATAS.

NATAS President and CEO Peter Price said he had no knowledge of the legal twist the discussions were taking until NATAS was asked to agree to a “mutual stand-still” on development of any new Emmy contests until differences could be worked out.

In his five-year tenure, Mr. Price has been more aggressive about broadening Emmy territory by recognizing Spanish-language TV and broadband and other digital programming made for cell phones and the Web.

He added digital categories in the news and documentary Emmys and the public service Emmys in 2006.

The sports Emmy nominations announced Thursday included several broadband categories that attracted entries from diverse sources.

Under an agreement that accompanied their acrimonious split in 1977, both Emmy organizations must agree before any new Emmy awards contests can be launched.

Mr. Price was unable to come to such an agreement after he was well into plans for a Spanish-language Emmy Awards in 2002, and ATAS cried foul. Mr. Price was forced to turn the proposed competition into a noncompetitive tribute to important figures in the Spanish-language TV sector.

“The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has attempted to resolve the complex issues associated with the introduction of new-media Emmy Awards with the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for some time,” an ATAS spokeswoman said Thursday. “Unfortunately, our talks have not resolved the differences we have in this vitally important area. It is our hope that this matter will be resolved amicably.”

(Editor: Horowitz)