Oscars red carpet:`The gravy train is over’ for TV stations and networks

Oscars Red Carpet
Carpet installer Rudy Morales positions the red carpet in front of the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood in advance of the 89th Academy Awards on Sunday. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

A spot on the Oscars’ red carpet now comes with a price.

For the first time, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is charging a license fee to TV stations and networks that broadcast live shows with interviews of movie stars on the red carpet before Sunday’s 89th Academy Awards telecast.

The Beverly Hills nonprofit group for decades has allowed multiple media outlets to shoot live from the red carpet as a way to promote its prestigious Oscar telecast. But now the academy is charging fees that are said to range from about $75,000 to $500,000 for outlets that want to broadcast a live show from the red carpet, according to three people with knowledge of the situation who were not authorized to publicly discuss it.

The new fees have stunned the faithful scrum of celebrity watchers.

“The gravy train is over,” Miro Copic, a San Diego State University marketing professor, said Friday. “The academy has realized the value of its content and the shifting landscape in the media world.”

The move comes as the academy steps up its efforts to raise nearly $400 million to build a movie museum at Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles, and the introduction of a new TV rights deal with its long-term partner, the Walt Disney Co.-owned ABC Television network.

ABC has been broadcasting the Academy Awards since 1976. Its new TV contract signed last summer requires the network to pay the academy substantially higher fees than before — nearly $100 million annually by some estimates. Some speculate that ABC is likely seeking ways to protect its investment.

“These are always intense negotiations,” said Copic, who previously worked as a marketing executive with PepsiCo, Hasbro and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

The new deal keeps the show on ABC through 2028 and gives the network more sway in the production. Its late-night comedian, Jimmy Kimmel, will host the program Sunday. ABC will be allowed to rule the red carpet beginning at 4 p.m. to showcase its New York-based “Good Morning America” team as they mingle with movie stars on the red carpet until the awards show begins at 5:30 p.m.

“Maybe ABC, during the negotiations, said to the academy: ‘Hey, we need an extended red carpet time, and it’s not fair…