In the latest "synergy" suit, the producers of Homicide:
Life on the Street sued NBC last week over its sale of the show's reruns to
Lifetime Television, claiming that they didn't get fair-market value for their
The legal action, alleging fraud and breach of contract,
was filed by Homicide executive producers Barry Levinson and Tom Fontana.
Their lawsuit is the latest to claim that producers are not
getting the fair-market value for their shows' reruns because mega-media companies
are either selling the shows to cable networks they also own at a discount or trying to
throw shows they own into the packages.
In the latest case involving NBC's NBC Studios Inc.,
the legal complaint charges that when NBC Studios was shopping Homicide around in
the aftermarket in 1996, both Lifetime and USA Network were interested. But NBC Studios
decided to package 20 Danielle Steele movies and miniseries that it had produced along
with the Homicide reruns.
Lifetime was willing to take the whole package, including
the Danielle Steele programming that NBC Studios was hawking. And as part of the pact,
Lifetime anted up $375,000 per episode in license fees for Homicide, which, the
suit claimed, is much less than what NBC would have gotten if the bidding had continued,
with USA making counteroffers.
NBC denied the charges in the suit. "We don't
believe the allegations have merit, and we intend to vigorously defend the lawsuit,"
an NBC spokeswoman said.
After it licensed Homicide, Lifetime later assigned
its rights to the show to Courtroom Television Network, which now airs the reruns in
primetime. Lifetime isn't named as a defendant in the Levinson-Fontana suit -- only
NBC Studios is.
Several suits have been filed recently alleging that media
companies are selling reruns at a discount, typically to cable networks they own.
For example, actor David Duchovny has sued News
Corp.'s 20th Century Fox, which produces The X-Files, claiming that it sold
the show's reruns to its cable network, FX, at a below-market price.
And Steven Bochco has filed a similar suit against 20th
Century Fox over the sale of his NYPD Blue'sreruns to FX.