Nikki Finke in talks for HBO payday

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Nikki Finke in talks for HBO payday

Tue May 18, 2010 @ 10:56AM PST

By Matthew Belloni

Finke,nikki EXCLUSIVE: HBO is trying to make a deal with litigious showbiz blogger Nikki Finke. The network is negotiating an arrangement with Finke to bless "Tilda," its planned comedy about a Hollywood blogger very much like Finke.

The deal isn't done, and, as anyone who has dealt with the fiery Finke will understand, it could fall apart until the moment it's 100% signed. But multiple sources say talks are serious and HBO has made an offer to bring her on board. 

Finke would be paid, but the arrangement might not be a traditional life-rights acquisition. We're told talks have centered on a per-episode "consultant" fee for the show, which chronicles the exploits of an aggressive middle-aged blogger and the studio executives she torments.

HBO told us last month that it had no rights agreement with anyone and that the Tilda character is a "fictional composite and is not based on any one person." But the network's willingness to make a deal with Finke suggests the legal department may have come to the same conclusion we did when reading the script: there are just too many striking similaries between Tilda and Nikki for the network not to consider protecting itself, especially since Finke has a history of suing and threatening to sue. 

Both HBO and Finke declined to comment on the deal, which sources say has been in the works for weeks.

Journalism ethicists might wonder whether Finke or her MMC-owned website, Deadline.com, will continue to cover HBO if she's on the payroll. MMC owner Jay Penske did not immediately return an email asking whether Finke's arrangement would impact the coverage on Deadline, though sources say Finke would likely refrain from personally covering the net if a deal can be reached. Neither Nikki nor her staff have written a word so far about "Tilda," even though media outlets far and wide have covered the Bill Condon and Cynthia Mort-penned project, which has Diane Keaton circling the Tilda role (though there's no deal for her). 

There's another insidery angle to this story. Finke has engaged LA attorney Tal Vigderson to represent her in dealings with HBO, but Ari Emanuel, whose WME agency is packaging the show, has taken an interest in this project. Yes, the same Ari Emanuel who inspired the superagent on HBO's current showbiz satire "Entourage" is using his skills to help the real-life inspiration for the network's latest stab at the genre. It's life imitating art imitating life imitating art.

Emanuel doesn't represent Finke, but the connection between them probably won't be a shock to people who know them. Finke's, um, insider coverage of last year's WMA-Endeavor merger helped put her and her website on the map. And Emanuel certainly has experience with real-life figures endorsing their made-up alter egos: HBO got him to sign off on Ari Gold before it began airing "Entourage." Looks like Nikki Finke could be next.  

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The Hollywood Reporter
The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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