Who wants to be a $269.4 millionaire? Disney loses case brought by creators

Mad MouseIn another Hollywood Accounting story that broke yesterday and another one involving The Mouse, Disney lost a suit brought on by Celador International, the owners and creators of the television game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire in 2004.

The loss has been reported around the web including at Bloomburg and the details are nothing new.  Basically they are claiming that  claiming Disney arm Buena Vista and the ABC network “through a complex web of self-dealing transactions” got ABC to pay Buena Vista a sweetheard deal licensing fee equal to pretty much the cost of producing the show. What’s the mean for the owners of the show?  The owners deal was with Disney and Buena Vista, not with ABC. ABC got to keep the advertising revenue for the show and Buena Vista walked away with just enough to cover the production of the show… and no profit that they would have to split with the owners of the show.

Disney’s point on it appears that the owners of WWTBAM knew that they wouldn’t make a profit on the network run of the show. Yeah, that’s why they signed a deal for 50% of the profits. ‘Cause they knew it wouldn’t make a profit. Makes sense to me.

The one bit of amusing evidence that Celador presented was an email from previous CEO Michael Eisner where he says that the show is going to turn ABC around and was just as important to them as the deal with the NFL. He also estimated the value of the show to them to be $1 Billion.  Current CEO Robert Iger is saying that jury got it all wrong.

Needless to say I’m sure the Disney lawyers are back in court today appealing it and will fight it tooth and nail so it’ll probably be years before it gets resolved but it’s nice to see a studio lose this kind of case once in a while.

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