Striking a blow against alleged abuses by vertically integrated media companies, attorneys for Steven Bochco have reached a settlement in the producer's lawsuit against Fox Entertainment Group parent News Corp.
Bochco's lawsuit — centered on disputed syndication rates for the popular TV series NYPD Blue
— was set to hit Los Angeles Superior Court on April 9.
Bochco sued because he believed 20th Century Fox Television's syndication deal with FX provided the sibling cable network with preferential rates. According to reports, FX paid $400,000 each for 88 episodes of the series in 1997; Bochco argued the series would have earned much more had other outlets been allowed to bid.
Weeks later, the top-rated medical drama ER
was sold to Turner Network Television for an estimated $800,000 per episode.
Bochco's suit sought $16.6 million in punitive and compensatory damages.
Attorneys for the producer did not return phone calls seeking comment on the settlement. Representatives for both parties last week said they were working on a joint statement.
At the time the lawsuit was filed, Fox officials argued that the series received top dollar. Bochco had signed a deal allowing 20th Century Fox to syndicate his series and received a multimillion dollar advance payment. He is also entitled to 70 percent of any adjusted gross revenue the reruns earn.
This is not the first instance in which a studio was challenged for offering a series to an affiliated programmer for a discounted rate. The X-Files
star David Duchovny also sued Fox over his series' sale to FX. The Walt Disney Co. was similarly challenged by the producers of the sitcom Home Improvement. Both of those cases were settled out of court.
In the wake of Bochco's action, the producers of Homicide: Life on the Street
filed a challenge to NBC Studios Inc.'s deal with Lifetime Television, which later assigned rights to Court TV.
Terms of the out-of-court agreement were not disclosed, but Fox officials said NYPD Blue
would be available for off-network syndication deals in fall 2001. FX declined comment. "Surprisingly, we were out of the mix on this one," a network spokesman said.
was crucial to the growth of FX. When it launched the popular ABC cop show in 1997 — paired with The X-Files
— jubilant executives said the network's primetime ratings instantly quadrupled.
FX was able to parlay those viewership numbers into carriage agreements with major cable operators who had resisted picking up the network.