Network Morning Show ‘License Fees’ Enter the Spotlight

By Alex Weprin 

On CNN’s “Reliable Sources” Sunday, and in today’s New York Times “license fees” get subjected to scrutiny. As TVNewser has reported, the last few weeks have seen a handful of network morning show stores made possible by networks paying licensing fees to the interviewees.

On Sunday, ABC’s Chris Cuomo took to CNN to defend the practice in regards to the case of Meagan Broussard, one of the women who Rep. Anthony Weiner engaged with online. Cuomo tells host Howard Kurtz “I wish money was not in the game, but you know it’s going to go somewhere else. You know someone else is going to pay for the same things.”

The Times gives a good overview of the cases we have covered the past few weeks, and also gets “Today” EP Jim Bell and “Good Morning America” senior EP James Goldston on the record:

Mr. Bell said “Today” had licensed material in the past for stories, but “we’re talking about in the vicinity of a few thousand dollars,” he said, “not this nonsense of six figures for what everybody understands is the hope to get an interview.”

He said that “Today” and “G.M.A.” had “different ideas” about “what an acceptable dollar amount is.”

Mr. Goldston responded, “Jim always comes out and says something similar to this whenever they don’t win, which is quite often these days.”

To that, Mr. Bell replied, “We are very comfortable letting ABC have the bookings that require a checkbook.”

For ABC, there has long been frustration in both the news division and the company’s top management over the seemingly unshakeable ratings dominance of NBC’s “Today.” “That’s why ABC is spending so much money on this kind of thing,” said one longtime ABC News executive, who asked not to be identified commenting about the network’s other managers. Disputing that, Mr. Goldston said that the licensing was “happening less, and for smaller amounts of money.”