Creators of the 1991-99 ABC comedy series Home Improvement are suing Walt Disney Television in a dispute over syndication revenues and calculations of the creators’ profit-sharing in the show. Writer-producers Matt Williams, Carmen Finestra, David McFadzean and their respective production companies accuse Disney of syndicating Home Improvement for significantly less than its fair value in certain markets and of failing to properly account for their share of profits on the series. Plaintiffs Williams, Finestra and McFadzean were executive producers and showrunners on Home Improvement for eight seasons, overseeing all aspects of production. While the series was in production, they received writing and exec producing fees under various agreements.
Plaintiffs say in their suit (read it here) that Disney sold Home Improvement in New York City, the nation’s largest TV market, for no monetary consideration under a barter-only agreement. In Dallas, however, Disney licensed the series to the local CBS affiliate for $3.75 million plus barter. In the No. 3 market Chicago, the deal was for $12.18 million plus barter. In Los Angeles, the No. 3 market, it was $5.2 million plus barter. Additionally, plaintiffs say Disney improperly charged expenses and distribution fees to the series, failed to report merchandising and music publishing revenue plus failed to report licensing fees for format rights in foreign territories. These and other studio actions reduced the creators’ share of the series profits despite Home Improvement‘s more than $1.5 billion in revenue to date. The creators and their production companies are entitled to 75% of net profits for the series and the studio is entitled to 25%, according to the suit.
Additionally, the suit says Disney has failed to provide the proper accounting and documentation under written and oral agreements. Plaintiffs have also exercised their rights to conduct audits on six occasions but only the first three of those audits have been resolved. The lawsuit covers audits 4, 5, and 6. The suit notes that plaintiffs have been waiting for results of those audits for 35 months. The creators, their production companies Wind Dancer, Finestra Productions, McFadzean Products and their partners are asking for a full accounting of revenues, actual and compensatory damages plus interest, plus court and other costs.