The London-based production company Celador that created Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? tells me it may go after the Hollywood talent agency with a lawsuit. Celador has just won a $269 million court case against Disney/ABC, which aired the U.S. version of Millionaire. Celador successfully persuaded a California jury that Disney owed it 50% of the show’s profits.
In court, Disney argued that if Celador was unhappy with its deal, it should be suing the agent which brokered it, not them. Celador appears to have taken Disney’s advice to heart. Celador says, “We are considering our options regarding the William Morris Agency.”
Of course, ABC bought the rights to Millionaire 11 years ago. The statute of limitations on Celador suing WMA should have expired after 4 years. But WMA signed a “tolling agreement”, putting off any dispute between it and Celador until the Disney case was decided. That stopped the clock on any legal action, and that’s why Celador can pick up where things were left off.
Many of the WMA agents involved in the deal -– like Ben Silverman who was the lead William Morris rep for Millionaire – have since left the agency which in 2009 merged with Endeavor to create WME. Celador wouldn’t say if it plans to sue any individuals.
The jury in the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? lawsuit returned a verdict for UK-based Celador today finding that the show’s producer was harmed by Disney’s self-dealing actions. The panel awarded damages totalling $269.2 million for the fair market value of broadcast licensing fees, and revenue from Millionaire merchandise. That just shy of the $405M which Celador was seeking. Immediately, the Walt Disney Company issued this statement: “We believe this verdict is fundamentally wrong and will aggressively seek to have it reversed.” The month-long Riverside trial followed six years of legal maneuvering over profits from the hit game show in a rare look into TV network and studio accounting practices. Celador convinced the jury that the producer earned millions of dollars less than it could have from the success of the show because Disney-owned ABC and co-producer Buena Vista TV brokered sweetheart deals with themselves.
After a 6 year legal maneuvering and a month-long trial, the $250 million case of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? producer Celador v. Disney over profits from the hit game show is now in the hands of the jury. Throughout the parade of witnesses, Celador seemed to prove that it earned less than it could have from the success of the show on ABC. The question is whether it was able to convince the jurors that it was the result of Disney-owned ABC and co-producer Buena Vista TV brokering sweetheart deals among themselves, thus allegedly cheating Celador out of millions — and not because it just made a bad deal. Read More »
eOne Revamps Broadcast And Digital Unit In Canada
Entertainment One is reorganizing its broadcast and digital division in Canada. SVP Television & Online Naveen Prasad is leaving the company under the restructuring, and Audrey Gardiner is being promoted to VP Licensing for eOne Films Canada and Dan Loewy becomes VP Transactional for eOne Films Canada. Together the former Alliance execs will oversee the Canadian film division’s broadcast and digital activities. Prasad had been overseeing the film group’s TV and digital activities after joining from Alliance following the takeover of that company by eOne. EOne says the reorganization will “support the group’s increasing activity in the digital sphere.” The Canadian team will work in tandem with digital leadership from across eOne’s international divisions.
New British Company Boxatricks To Focus On Creating Formats
British producers Colman Hutchinson and Steve Springford have joined with Who Wants To Be A Millionaire creators Michael Whitehill and David Briggs to launch Boxatricks. The UK company will focus on creating formats in the game and quiz show space as well as factual entertainment programs. Hutchinson was previously head of entertainment at Hat Trick Productions and Celador Productions. Springford is a former director of production at Celador. His credits include overseeing production of Millionaire, The National Lottery: Winning Lines and The Hypnotic World Of Paul McKenna. Whitehill co-created Millionaire in 1998 with Briggs and Steven Knight. Briggs previously collaborated with Hutchinson on the Brainiest format and with Springford on The National Lottery: Winning Lines. With Whitehill, he worked on The People Versus and Winning Lines. Read More »
Unless they want to take it to the Supreme Court, it looks like Disney has run out of legal lifelines and will have to pay up in the $319 million Who Wants To Be A Millionaire case. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Tuesday unanimously rejected a petition by the company for a new trial against Millionaire creator Celador International, which in 2010 was awarded damages by a jury who agreed with the UK company that Disney breached the contract between Celador and it own TV divisions. “The panel votes to deny the petition for rehearing en banc…The full court has been advised of the petition for rehearing en banc and no judge has requested a vote on whether to rehear the matter en banc,” said the brief order (read it here) issued this week.
The unanimous vote and the fact no other judge on the court was interested in a vote on the case does not bode well for Disney overturning the multimillion-dollar July 2010 verdict against it further up the legal food chain. Read More »
Looks like Disney has hit a legal brick wall in the $319 million Who Wants To Be A Millionaire case. The company today was denied a new trial in the matter by the three-judge 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. In their order Monday, the trio rejected efforts of “the Disney affiliates” — ABC, Buena Vista TV and Valleycrest Productions — to appeal U.S. District Judge Virginia Phillips’ initial December 2010 denial of an appeal in the case. “We are extremely disappointed with the decision, as ABC and Buena Vista Television continue to believe that they fully adhered to the Millionaire agreement,” a Disney spokesman told Deadline. ”I’m extremely pleased for the client Celador, my team of lawyers and I’m gratified that the Court of Appeal saw fit today to affirm a carefully crafted trial,” attorney Roman Silberfeld said today.
Citing “a cascading series of errors” in the original 2010 case, Disney was seeking a new trial in hopes of overturning the $319 million Millionaire creators Celador was awarded. In 2010, a jury agreed with Celador that Disney breached the contract between the company and the company’s TV divisions. Despite the likes of Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger taking the stand, the Riverside, CA jury awarded Celador $269 million in damages; Phillips added $50 million in pre-judgment interest. Disney lawyers said from the very beginning they would appeal. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: London and LA-based film music provider The Cutting Edge Group invests cash in film music budgets and provides or brokers services for scoring, clearances and music supervision. It then recoups from soundtrack and sheet-music sales along with licensing and royalties from ticket sales and TV deals. New director of business affairs and head of legal, Nora Mullally, joins after a 3-year stint consulting EMI Music. Her experience advising companies on commissioning, rights clearance and exploitation issues for film soundtracks includes working with the UK’s Celador Films on the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack. The ten-year-old CEG has been involved with such films as Looper, End Of Watch, Bullet To The Head, Drive, The King’s Speech, Atonement and Notting Hill.
Disney is asking a federal appeals court to overturn a $319 million judgment awarded two years ago to the British production company behind Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. Lawyers for Disney’s ABC Network and Buena Vista Television are scheduled to argue their case today before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Pasadena, Bloomberg reports. “The district court committed a cascading series of errors that yielded a verdict radically transforming the parties’ carefully negotiated allocation of risks and rewards,” according to a court filing by the Disney units. Celador originally filed suit against Disney in 2004, claiming that Disney and its TV subsidiaries ABC, Buena Vista Television and Valleycrest Prods. involved in shady dealmaking to deny Celador its fair share of profits from its show. A jury in July 2010 agreed that Disney units breached the contract and awarded Celador $269 million in damages. U.S. District Judge Virginia A. Phillips then added $50 million in pre-judgment interest. Phillips later refused Disney’s bid to overturn the verdict, leading to today’s federal appeals court hearing.
Related: Disney’s Initial Appeal Of $319M ‘Millionaire’ Verdict Denied
Disney’s bid to overturn the $319 million verdict to Celador, the company behind the Who Wants To Be a Millionaire format, was denied today by Judge Virginia Phillips. Phillips, who oversaw the trial that resulted in the massive award for the British production company, issued a 54-page final order explaining her decision Tuesday. Celador, which originally filed suit against Disney in 2004, claimed that Disney and its TV subsidiaries ABC, Buena Vista Television and Valleycrest Prods. involved in shady dealmaking to deny Celador its fair share of profits from its show. Disney is next expected to appeal the verdict at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal.
EXCLUSIVE: I broke the news back in 2008 that Cutting Edge had signed a deal with Joel Silver to put money into Dark Castle movies in exchange for soundtrack rights. Now the London-based music company is raising a new, larger fund. It’s also putting together more Joel Silver-type deals with Hollywood producers. Cutting Edge raised £13.3 million last year. It’s been involved in about 95 films so far including 2012, Harry Brown and Fish Tank. Cutting Edge injects between $50-100,000 into a production in exchange for music cues it can exploit across all media.
This can be a lucrative business. How many times have you heard a Massive Attack track in the background of a TV show? Broadcasters pay music publishers a usage fee every time seconds of soundtrack clip are used. Celador, producer of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, was careful to ensure that its own music was used when it sold the show worldwide. It earned millions that way. Most indie producers aren’t aware they can make money through music publishing. UK broadcasters spend over £300 million a year on music rights. Broadcasters across Europe spend £1 billion a year buying film and TV music. Music publishing today has become a $10 billion business.
Cutting Edge has just announced an initial 5-film deal with Exclusive Media Group, the international sales arm of Hammer Films. It’s investing in Let Me In, Hammer’s remake of Swedish horror tale Let the Right One In, directed by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield), and the Hilary … Read More »
From Deadline|London editor Tim Adler: The American Idol judge has hired the ex-boss of the company which made Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? to run his new Syco Entertainment. Ellis Watson, who starts as CEO of Syco in a month’s time, is a heavyweight businessman (see below). So right at the top of his in-tray will be figuring out how Simon Cowell is going to be in two places at the same time next year. The X Factor is due to start on Fox in fall 2011 – just when the show begins on ITV over here. And so far, ITV says it’s not changing its date. Remember, this is a big deal for the UK channel, especially after the finale generated an unheard-of peak time audience of 19.3 million. My view is that ITV could give itself the best Xmas present ever by moving The X Factor to that week.
Not that Watson needs my advice. In addition to running TV distributor Celador International, he’s the former managing director of publishing giant Trinity Mirror, where he oversaw 5 national newspapers. Most recently he’s been on the board of 2 Scottish companies: First Group, which runs yellow school buses in the States, and high-street chain John Menzies.
Studio scorecard: Paramount 28 (Paramount 14 + Paramount Vantage 6 + DreamWorks 6 + Marvel 2), Warner Bros 21, Universal 20 (Universal 6 + Imagine 5 + Focus 9), Disney 14 (Walt Disney 8 + Miramax 6), Fox 13 (20th Century Fox 1 + Fox Searchlight 12), The Weinsten Co 6, Sony 5 (Sony Classics 5), Marvel 2, MGM/UA 0
My analysis: As usual, the Academy Motion Picture Arts & Sciences voters got it wrong. That they could ignore a Best Picture nod for The Dark Knight and a Best Director nomination for Chris Nolan, nor show any love for Iron Man which was a very satisfying film as well, shows just how out of touch the mostly geriatric members who decide the Oscars really are. The result is that this year’s broadcast, lacking any movies that smack of blockbuster in the major category, should be low-rated yet again. Wall-E was robbed for Best Picture, too. It’s long overdue for an animated film to win that category. And overlooking Darren Aronofsky for Best Director was absurd, though he’s honored indirectly for both Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei’s nods. And what’s the deal for ignoring Bruce Springsteen’s swell song for that film?
But the madness of today’s nominations for the February 22nd Academy Awards goes on and on…
The voters blanked Clint Eastwood for Best Actor, despite the fact he’s never won in that category, and for Best Director, which he’s won twice. I’d suspected since December that the Gran Torino story, dialogue and message wouldn’t appeal to the Oscar elite because it’s too … Read More »