Walking Dead creator sues network
The creator of zombie TV hit The Walking Dead is suing network bosses over what he claims is an effort to deny him tens of millions of dollars in profit from the series.
Oscar-nominated writer-director Frank Darabont and Creative Arts Agency have filed a lawsuit in New York Supreme Court against defendants including AMC Network Entertainment.
Their suit claims that despite four seasons of "unprecedented programming success and profitability" for the defendants, Darabont has not received any profits for developing the series.
AMC declined to comment on the suit, which also alleges Darabont was sacked as producer without cause. He developed The Walking Dead from Robert Kirkman's comic book series about zombies.
The lawsuit claims AMC decided to produce the series in-house and paid itself a deliberately low licence fee to air it, engaging in what the suit labels "the improper and abusive practice of 'self-dealing'."
"The sole goal of this sham transaction is to enhance the profits of the parent company by minimising the revenues that go into the 'pool' of funds for the show's profit participants," the suit says.
The suit reflects others filed by creators of successful TV shows, including Will & Grace. When a studio licenses a show to be aired by an affiliated network or cable channel, the fee can fail to reflect fair market value and diminish payments to creators and others, such legal actions argue.
Darabont's legal action follows his clouded exit from The Walking Dead early in its second season and critical public comments he has made about AMC.
His lawsuit claims that a formal agreement called for him to be paid as if the series were produced by an unaffiliated studio engaging in "true arm's length negotiations over licence fees".
As of December 2012, two years after the show debuted, AMC's participation statements show The Walking Dead had a 49 million-dollar (£30m) deficit to overcome before Darabont or CAA would see "their first dollar of profits".
"AMC's sham imputed licence fee formula is clearly designed to ensure plaintiffs never see that first dollar," the suit says.