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UPDATE: Trial Date Pushed Back In Don Bellisario-CBS Suit Over ‘NCIS: LA’ Profits

By | Tuesday December 11, 2012 @ 10:01am PST

UPDATE, 10:01 AM: The start date for the multimillion-dollar jury trial was pushed back to January 25 today by Judge Gregory Alarcon. It had been set to begin January 14. Based on a tentative ruling circulated earlier by the judge that granted rights to CBS to examine Bellisario’s medical records and take depositions from three of his doctors, the studio sought to have the start date pushed back until at least February 2013. Bellisario’s lawyer Ronald Nessim argued to keep the start date as close to the original as possible. Both sides and the judge acknowledged that the upcoming holidays, the court’s crowded schedule and the time needed for both sided to conduct interviews would push the case forward. “A week before a trial of this magnitude I don’t want to be taking doctors’ depositions, I want to be working on my opening argument”, CBS Studios lawyer Scott Edelman told the court. The judge noted the tight schedule, and urged both sides to find a way to strike a deal; at one point, Edelman accused Nessim of being a “Christmas Scrooge” for his proposed compressed schedule. The date was eventually scheduled from the bench. It is likely Bellisario and his wife will also be interviewed by both sides about his medical condition. A final status conference before the trial is set for January 18.

PREVIOUS, 9:01 AM: Lawyers for Don Bellisario and CBS are set to face off at a hearing over the producer’s multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the network for profits from NCIS: Los Angeles. At issue this morning in LA Superior Court downtown is whether the JAG and NCIS creator’s recently revealed neurological disorder will delay the trial. Despite having made more than $116 million from his CBS shows over the years, Bellisario sued last April over breach of contract and the covenant of good faith for profits from NCIS: LA. This morning, CBS wants Judge Gregory Alarcon to push back the January 14 trial start date so it can look at Bellisario’s medical records and talk to his doctors to determine whether his “water on the brain” condition could have prevented him from performing his duties as a network showrunner. Lawyers for the 77-year-old Bellisario, who was let go from NCIS in 2007 after star Mark Harmon threatened to quit, want to squash that attempt, a move CBS has called “stonewalling” in legal documents for “trying to leverage Bellisario’s medical condition in their own favor.” Read More »

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CBS Wins Court’s Favor Again In ‘NCIS’ Creator Suit

By | Thursday June 21, 2012 @ 4:58pm PDT

Donald Bellisario today saw his claim to millions from CBS Studios and NCIS: Los Angeles take a legal body blow. A LA Superior Court judge ruled that the JAG and NCIS creator is not entitled to any money from CBS over the show. In a dense 12-page ruling, (Read it here) Judge Gregory Alarcon dismissed any financial claims Bellisario may have believed he was due to the spinoff under a 2006 agreement with CBS Studios.

Bellisario, who was let go from NCIS in 2007 after star Mark Harmon threatened to quit, sued CBS Studios last April over breach of contract and the covenant of good faith for profits from NCIS:LA. In his 2011 suit, the former producer claimed that under his 1992, 2002 and 2006 contracts with CBS Studios and its predecessors, he had a right of “first opportunity” “to participate creatively in economically in the development” of any “new spinoffs, sequels or remakes” of any series he had created for the studio as long as he worked on the original series for the first 2 seasons. CBS disagreed. Read More »

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RATINGS RAT RACE: ‘Parenthood’ & ‘Body Of Proof’ Were Up, Why Wasn’t ‘Good Wife’?

Nellie Andreeva

UPDATE 2 PM: The final numbers for last night are in, and Parenthood went up a tenth to a 2.1 in 18-49, so The Good Wife finished third in the 10 PM hour among 18-49. Also going up a tenth were NCIS, The Biggest Loser, the Dancing with the Stars result show and the premiere of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.

PREVIOUS: OK, I give up rationalizing the ratings performance of CBS’ The Good Wife. What was one of the show’s strongest episodes last night, packed with drama and featuring several name guest stars — America Ferrera, Fred Thompson, Ana Gasteyer and Hugo Chavez (if you’ve seen the episode, you’ll get it) – did a 2.0/5 in adults 18-49 (10.9 million total viewers), flat with last week in 18-49 and tied with NBC’s Parenthood for second place in the 10 PM hour. It finished behind ABC’s rookie Body of Proof (2.5/7, 11.2 million), which is making a case for renewal, up a tenth (4%) in the demo from last week. Parenthood also was up a tenth (5%) from last week, so The Good Wife, which has been building for months to last night’s election episode, was the only 10 PM show not to get a boost in the demo (it was up in viewers by 100,000). CBS (3.0/8, 15.2 million) still won the night with solid performances from NCIS (3.8/12, 19.2 million), even with last week in the demo, and NCIS: LA (3.3/9, 15.3 million), down 6%. Read More »

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RATINGS RAT RACE: Solid Premiere For ABC’s ‘Body Of Proof’

Nellie Andreeva

ABC’s midseason drama Body of Proof, starring Dana Delany, got off to a promising start last night with a 3.0/8 fast-national rating in adults 18-49 and 13.9 million viewers. It dominated the 10 PM hour against original competition, pushing CBS’ The Good Wife (1.9/5, 10 million) to a season low in the demo. NBC’s Parenthood (1.9/5, 4.8 million) was flat. Body of Proof qualifies as TV’s second-most-watched series premiere this season behind CBS’ Hawaii Five-0 and ABC’s second-highest-rated premiere in 18-49 behind No Ordinary Family. At ABC, which has been struggling to launch a successful drama series in the past few years, Body of Proof was most watched midseason drama debut in four years and the top rated among 18-49 in two years. Body of Proof benefited from a strong lead-in, Dancing with the Stars‘ first result show this cycle (4.2/11, 18.8 million), which was down 5% from the corresponding show in the fall but up sharply (40% in 18-49, 31% in viewers) from the results premiere last year to rank as the top program of the night. Body of Proof’s numbers may have been inflated a bit from a Dancing overrun, so its performance will be more properly judged when final ratings are released later today. ABC, which opened with a Dancing recap (2.7/8, 12.7 million), won the night in 18-49 (3.3/9, 15.1 million), edging traditional Tuesday ratings victor CBS (3.1/8, 14.5 million with an all-original lineup). Read More »

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RATINGS RAT RACE: ‘NCIS’ Tops, ‘No Ordinary Family’ Up

Nellie Andreeva

With Fox’s Glee in repeat, CBS’ NCIS (3.8/12 in adults 18-49, 19.1 million viewers) easily ruled the primetime roost last night, ranking as the top program in the demo and total viewers. It was flat vs. its most recent original March 1. Ditto for NCIS: LA (3.2/9, 16.5 million), while The Good Wife (2.1/6, 11.6 million) was down 5% in the demo. CBS won the night in 18-49 (3.0/9) and total viewers (15.7 million)

NBC was second with The Biggest Loser (3.0/9) from 8-10 PM, up 11% from last week and marking a six-week high. (Parenthood was a repeat.)

ABC’s No Ordinary Family (1.5/5) was up 25% from its last original March 1, when it faced American Idol. From 9-11 PM, the Greatest Movies of Our Time special (1.8/5) did better than V and Detroit 1-8-7 in the time period last week. ABC logged its most-watched Tuesday since December. On Fox, only Traffic Light (1.1/3) was new, down significantly from last week with no original lead-in.

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RATINGS RAT RACE: Veteran ‘NCIS’ Hits Another Viewership Record: 22.7 Million

Nellie Andreeva

It is amazing for a show in its eighth season to post a series high in today’s fragmented TV universe. It is even more amazing for an eight-year-old show to do it twice. That’s what CBS’ NCIS did last night, drawing its largest Live+same day audience to date, 22.7 million, and eclipsing the previous record of 19.9 million posted just 3 weeks ago. In adults 18-49, the veteran procedural averaged a 4.6/12, up 12% from its last original 2 weeks ago and its best result in more than a year. NCIS‘ hot steak has been helped by Fox’s Glee airing repeats in the 8 PM slot for the entire month of January but still, packing such audiences at this stage of a show’s lifespan is pretty remarkable. NCIS was easily the top program of the night in viewers and 18-49, leading CBS to a nightly win in both categories. NCIS: LA (3.8/9, up 15% vs. 1/18; 17.8 million) and The Good Wife (2.2/6, up 5%; 12.1 million)  extended CBS’ winning ways with time-slot wins at 9 PM and 10 PM. At 10 PM, The Good Wife was tied in the demo with NBC’s Parenthood, which was also up 5% from its most recent original 2 weeks ago. Parenthood followed a two-hour Biggest Loser: Couples (3.3/8), which was up 3% from last week’s hourlong telecast to match its season high for … Read More »

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RATINGS RAT RACE: ‘Dancing’ Ends On A High While ‘Glee’ Hits A Low

Nellie Andreeva

The finale of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars (5.3/15, 24.1 million), which crowned actress Jennifer Grey as the winner, dominated the competition last night. Boosted by Bristol Palin’s improbable run to the finals (she finished 3rd), Dancing was up 23% from the reality series’ season finale last fall to log its highest closer 18-49 rating in 5 cycles (since May 2008) and its largest audiences in 6 cycles (since November 2007). Dancing’s lead-in, freshman drama No Ordinary Family (1.8/5), posted more modest gains, up a tenth from last week. Meanwhile, Glee, which had ranked as the No.1 Tuesday program among 18-49 with every original episode this fall, slipped to No.2 behind the Dancing finale and was down 20% from last week for a season low. Raising Hope (2.4/7) was down 11%. CBS and NBC’s lineups displayed only minor ratings fluctuations. CBS’ NCIS (3.9/11, 18.8 million) was flat for a third straight week, while NCIS:LA (3.2/9, 14.9 million) and The Good Wife (2.1/6, 10 million) were each down a tenth for a season low. At NBC, The Biggest Loser (2.4/7) was down a tenth while Parenthood (1.9/5) was up a tenth from last week’s series low.

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RATINGS RAT RACE: CBS Dramas Inch Up, ‘No Ordinary Family’ & ‘Running Wilde’ Slip

Nellie Andreeva

Things seem to be settling down on Tuesdays, with most series reaching their ratings comfort zones. After across-the-board declines last Tuesday, last night all but 2 shows stayed very close to their last week’s averages and, in some cases, bounced back. That includes the entire CBS lineup as all of the network’s dramas went up a notch. CBS tied Fox for the the top spot on Tuesday for first time this season, expanding the network’s nightly winning streak this fall from Wednesday-Friday to Tuesday-Friday. (CBS is also breathing down ABC’s neck on Monday, finishing .1 behind this week.) NCIS(3.9/11, 19 million viewers), NCIS:LA (3.5/9, 16.1 million) and The Good Wife (2.6/7, 11.8 million) all went up .1 rating point from last week, with NCIS:LA and The Good Wife winning their hours in 18-49 and NCIS once again drawing the largest audience for the night (and probably for the week, football excluded.) CBS averaged a 3.3/9 in 18-49 and 15.6 million viewers, tying Fox in 18-49 for No.1 and winning outright in total viewers.

The two series, both freshman, that posted double-digit drops last night were ABC drama No Ordinary Family and Fox comedy Running Wilde. In its third week on the air, No Ordinary Family (2.3/6) was down 15%. Vs. last week’s fast nationals, it was down 12%, which is a more accurate comparison since the superhero family drama added … Read More »

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AFTRA Tops SAG In Primetime Next Season

Nellie Andreeva

SAG_logoAFTRA_LOGO_SLOGOOf the 38 new broadcast scripted series next season, only one, Fox’s comedy Running Wilde, chose to go with SAG in what has become a watershed moment in the primetime dynamic between AFTRA and SAG, with AFTRA overtaking SAG as the top actors union. For the first time, AFTRA will represent more scripted series on the broadcast networks next season than the field’s long-time dominant player SAG. There will be 45 AFTRA series on the air next season vs. 38 SAG shows. That is a big swing from last year when 48 series were under SAG and 26 under AFTRA. It is the result of a second consecutive freshman class on the broadcast networks dominated by AFTRA-represented shows.

Of the 38 new comedy and drama series picked up for next season at the 5 broadcast nets, 34 are under AFTRA jurisdiction and 4 are under SAG. Last year, there were 24 new series, 18 represented by AFTRA and 6 by SAG. But it’s important to note the SAG affiliation for the majority of new series repped by the union was not by choice but automatic because they were based on existing properties or spinoffs of existing SAG-represented series. Last year, that included all 6 SAG series: the remakes V and Eastwick on ABC, spinoffs NCIS: LA on CBS and The Cleveland Show on Fox and ABC’s comedy The Middle and Fox’s Glee, originally developed during previous cycles. (Glee was the result of off-cycle development.) This year, the list of SAG-represented new series include spinoffs Law & Order: Los Angeles on NBC and the untitled Criminal Minds spinoff on CBS, the Nikita remake on the CW as well as one brand new series, Running Wilde.

AFTRA had had limited presence on the broadcast networks’ scripted series, mostly courtesy of Sony TV, which has long been closely associated with the smaller actors union, producing all of its series under AFTRA. But the mass switch from SAG to AFTRA among all major TV studios began during last year’s pilot season. It was fueled by fears of a potential SAG strike and was helped by the studios’ transition from film to digital video (If a series is filmed on 35 mm, it can only be covered by SAG; if it’s shot on digital video, it can be represented by SAG or AFTRA). In 2009, broadcast pilots went to to 90%-plus AFTRA affiliation from 90%-plus SAG pilot representation the year before. This year, with no labor stoppage on the horizon, SAG was expected to regain pilot ground, especially with a more moderate leadership in place. In fact, new SAG president Ken Howard listed retention of coverage of network pilots as a top priority when he ran for office in the fall. But the TV studios overwhelmingly stuck with AFTRA, which dominated pilot season for a second straight year with more than 90% representation. Why? Studio insiders tell me AFTRA continues to be considered the safer, more stable alternative.

SAG still represents most returning series (34 vs. 11 for AFTRA) but two years of overwhelmingly more new series under AFTRA have undercut SAG’s dominance even in that area. While the larger actors union continues to represent the vast majority of returning series at ABC, Fox and CBS, at NBC and the the CW, the unions have almost equal representation: 57%-43% in SAG’s favor. “If AFTRA and SAG don’t merge, AFTRA will be the dominant player in primetime within a couple of years,” one industry insider told me.

The drumbeat has been growing louder for a merger between SAG and AFTRA, which tried to unite unsuccessfully in 1998 and 2003. The dramatic representation shift in primetime may serve as a catalyst for that. I hear actors who work in both film and television are becoming increasingly frustrated that they have to be represented by one union when they do a feature and another when doing a series. The same is true for TV actors who appear on both SAG and AFTRA series. By dividing their earnings between the two unions, some of them don’t qualify for health insurance through neither of SAG nor AFTRA, even though their total yearly income would’ve easily push them over the threshold at either union.

The SAG/AFTRA relations seem to be thawing: The two unions recently approved a joint bargaining agreement and have been holding joint Wages & Working Conditions meetings in preparation for negotiation of the AFTRA Exhibit A and SAG TV/Theatrical contract that expires on June 30, 2011. That date comes right after the next development cycle for the broadcast networks, which no doubt will make for an eventful pilot season next year.

Following are lists of new and returning broadcast series by actors union affiliation: Read More »

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