ABC News has won a bidding war to secure U.S. broadcast rights to a video "diary" made by Princess Di's butler Paul Burrell during his recent trial for allegedly pinching some of her belongings and to an interview with Burrell by Brit journalist Trevor McDonald.
Additionally, ABC has been granted exclusive U.S. rights to interview Burrell, who was acquitted after Queen Elizabeth II intervened.
ABC News insists that one had nothing to do with the other and that it did not gain its exclusive interview rights by buying the British "Diana's Rock" documentary for a sum that sources put between $300,000 and $350,000.
Actually, an ABC News rep simply snapped "We do not pay for interviews" when asked about the coincidence by The TV Column.
"Diana's Rock," which aired in Britain on Sunday, includes Burrell's diary and the McDonald interview. The title comes from Diana's term ("my rock") for her butler.
Portions of the video diary, the interview with McDonald and ABC's own sit-down with Burrell will be used in a special edition of "20/20" on Monday and in a series on "Good Morning America" all next week.
Malibu attorney Richard Greene, who's representing Burrell in his U.S. negotiations, said the decision to do an interview with ABC News came after he learned that Granada International had sold U.S. rights to "Diana's Rock" to ABC, which outbid CBS and NBC.
"I finally got the call that it was ABC and was told how much they had paid for it," Greene said, "and after that we continued negotiations with ABC because they had been calling me, like NBC and CBS, calling me every day.
"And I said okay, and then we made arrangements to work out how [the new interview] would be used. I set down certain guidelines as to what questions could be asked and what could not."
Greene insisted that ABC News's purchase of the Burrell video diary and McDonald chat played into his decision "only insomuch as there was some benefit to us in having Paul be able to provide background and color and commentary and even analysis of the video during his interview. I felt it would have been awkward for that to have happened if the interview was [airing] on one network and the video was on another network at a time that we wouldn't control.
"He absolutely was not paid for the interview," Greene added.
He also said he decided to go with ABC News because "Paul several years ago had met with me and Barbara Walters and really liked Barbara Walters and had great respect for her and felt very comfortable with anything she and '20/20' and ABC would do.
"Barbara wanted to do the interview," he added.
Barbara is not doing the interview. Elizabeth Vargas is doing the interview, which as of late yesterday was scheduled to take place at 1 p.m. today at an undisclosed location in New York.
Asked why Walters would not be conducting the interview, the snappish ABC News rep said, "The decision is up to the executive producer."
"I am now here in America to tell my side of the story and the truth about the consequences of a case which should never have been brought in the first place," Burrell said at a news conference yesterday afternoon in New York.
The butler was recently acquitted of stealing more than 300 items from the princess and other members of the royal family. He was cleared after the queen said Burrell had told her he had taken some of Diana's personal papers for safekeeping after the princess's death in a Paris car crash in August 1997.
After reading his statement -- he took no questions from the gaggle of TV cameramen, reporters and photographers -- Burrell and his wife were trailed by paparazzi and onlookers as they walked one block to Times Square for a photo op, the Associated Press reported.
Burrell sold his story to the London tabloid the Daily Mirror for a reported $620,000.
Yesterday he said that the deal "will only address our debts and save our home from being repossessed."
"Telling my story was never about money. It was only ever about the truth and justice and telling it honestly and properly. I intend to do the same here in America so that the American people will also know the truth. That is what all this is about -- the truth."
Despite ABC's denial, eyebrows all across the wacky world of TV News were waving up and down over ABC's twofer.
"It smells like Limburger cheese left out in August," one news industry source said of the arrangement. The source, who requested anonymity, does not work for CBS or NBC.
The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences is negotiating to move its annual Primetime Emmy Awards telecast over to HBO.
HBO executives, apparently having cornered the market on Stupid Pills, decided to forgo the millions of dollars' worth of free publicity their network receives every year when some other network foots the bill to broadcast the show in which HBO programs win Emmy trophies. Instead they've decided to fork over $10 million a year to move the annual HBO infomercial to HBO.
"It is inappropriate to comment on the business of the television academy," an HBO spokeswoman sniffed yesterday when contacted for comment.
According to informed sources, the pay cable network may become a basic cable network on Emmy night to increase the number of people who can watch the trophy show. But that still won't make it available to as many folks as have been watching it annually on ABC, CBS, NBC or Fox. Those networks have been trying for the past six months to renegotiate their rotating broadcast of the show.
The TV Academy wanted them to pay $10 million a year for the broadcast rights, putting the Emmys on par with the Grammy broadcast and the Academy Awards. The broadcast networks countered with an offer of $3.5 million, up slightly from the current $3 million.
The academy still has to present HBO's offer to its board of governors for approval; that's scheduled for tomorrow.
In addition to the $10 million license fee, HBO would cover the $5 million or so cost of producing the Emmy show and a couple of million more to market and promote the annual gala.
The TV Academy has sent letters to each of the broadcast networks "beseeching them to step up and make a proposal that befits the dignity of the event and its revenue capacity," according to an academy official.
According to this source, the academy looked at the "commercial structure" of the broadcast for the past four years.
The academy reckons that the networks are grossing about $30 million annually in Emmy advertising. Even subtracting the 15 percent agency commission, and the cost of the Emmy show production and marketing, "what you get is a net to the networks of approximately $20 to $23 million."
"What we've said to them is, 'Fellows, why don't we split it; give us $10 million.' "
But broadcast network executives insist the Emmy show isn't worth as much as the Grammys or the Oscars because: a) A network ends up promoting its competitors' product, and b) It airs the Sunday night before the start of the TV season and has to be promoted, taking away valuable air time for a network to promote its own new series, among other things.