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Networks Shell Out for Royal Wedding Pundits

Broadcasters in bidding wars to sign British personalities
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British television has long shelled out the big bucks to hire personalities to cover major state events. Now, American networks are following suit, signing British pundits to both long-term and short-term contracts to cover Friday’s Royal Wedding. Because networks will all be airing the same camera feed of the ceremony, says the New York Times, there is fierce competition to hire talent to help their networks stand out as they fill the hours of time before and after the ceremony.

As soon as the wedding date was announced, Hollywood agencies lost no time in pitching their clients as experts for the event and even selling “packages” of pundits for TV documentaries leading up to the big day. “You would be shocked by how many e-mails we got from agents pitching their client as the royalty expert because they once saw Prince William, or once met Kate Middleton, or have once had dinner in the same restaurant,” said Rob Silverstein, executive producer of Access Hollywood. “As long as you have an English accent,” he joked, “you’ll work.”

And the networks took the bait: Bidding wars over the most popular British personalities led to skyrocketing contract prices, some worth over $100,000 for “special correspondents,” the Times reports. Some pundits even have contracts with several outlets, like Katie Nicholl, the author of a book about the bride and groom, who will be working for ABC News, CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight, and Extra. Other major grabs include NBC’s long-term contract with wedding guest Ben Fogle, a British TV host who traveled with Prince William last year, and ABC’s signings of Tina Brown, India Hicks (one of Princess Diana’s former bridesmaids), Colleen Harris, the prince's former press secretary.

However, the high costs of hiring correspondents could be risky for networks that are already struggling financially, says the NYT. Having already sold special advertising packages for their broadcasts, these networks are now hoping that viewer interest will be intense enough to make their bets pay off.