TWENTY-FIRST Century Fox Inc. was ordered to pay $179 million in a case brought by four Bones actors and producers who claimed they were cheated out of their share of profits from the hit TV series.
Actors Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz and two producers alleged that Fox deflated the profitability of the show by licensing it at artificially low fees to Fox’s broadcast network and the streaming service Hulu, which Fox co-owns.
Fights between studios and producers are common now that consolidation and streaming TV have upended the economics of TV shows. Many companies are producing and selling shows for sister networks and streaming services instead of selling them.
Bones, which ran on Fox’s broadcast network from 2005 to 2017, was always a well-rated show though never one of TV’s biggest hits. The judge criticized senior Fox executives, including Peter Rice, Gary Newman, and Dana Walden. Mr. Rice and Ms. Walden are both joining Walt Disney Co. once that company completes its acquisition of some of Fox’s entertainment assets.
The Feb. 4 arbitration award includes $129 million in punitive damages to “punish Fox for its reprehensible conduct and deter it from future wrongful conduct.”
“The ruling by this private arbitrator is categorically wrong on the merits and exceeded his arbitration powers,” Fox said in a statement. “Fox will not allow this flagrant injustice, riddled with errors and gratuitous character attacks, to stand and will vigorously challenge the ruling in a court of law.”
Disney wasn’t involved in the arbitration. Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger issued a statement in support of the two Fox executives.
“Peter Rice and Dana Walden are highly respected leaders in this industry, and we have complete confidence in their character and integrity,” Mr. Iger said.
Lawyers for the actors and producers filed a petition to confirm the arbitration award Wednesday in California Superior Court in Los Angeles. Fox filed a request to either correct or vacate the award. — Bloomberg