Lots of people are enjoying this tale: Rival TV Boxing Shows Square Off in California Court
The dispute between the creators of rival boxing reality shows grew nastier yesterday when producers of “The Contender” on NBC sought a temporary restraining order that would prevent the Fox network from broadcasting its version, “The Next Great Champ.”
Relying on a report written by the former chairman of the California State Athletic Commission that accuses the Fox show of numerous violations of state boxing regulations, the producers of “The Contender,” DreamWorks SKG and Mark Burnett Productions, asked a judge in California Superior Court to prevent “The Next Great Champ” from using film of any match that was not legally promoted.
[...] Yesterday’s legal maneuver takes the fight to a new level. It is also an attempt to find a different way to challenge the increasing practice of copying concepts for reality shows. In several court challenges in the recent years, networks failed to convince courts that reality ideas could be protected as intellectual property.
This also gives me a chance to dig out one of the many articles I noted while on vacation, but haven’t found the time to get posted — a look at the scope of the issue: In Reality TV, Is It Thievery or Flattery?
Fox’s strategy of copy and conquer - its boxing reality program, “The Next Great Champ,” will beat NBC’s series, “The Contender,” to the air by two months - has infuriated its rivals as well as some agents and producers. They see recent events as a clear indication that the business of reality television, where ideas and formats are apparently not protectable by any court or code of conduct, is only going to get crazier, uglier and down-in-the-dirt nastier.
“It’s pretty sad that unethical behavior can deny people their intellectual property,” said Stephen McPherson, the president of ABC Entertainment, whose struggling network could lose a potential hit because of Fox’s success with “Trading Spouses.”
He said he was not surprised by the initial strong ratings for “Trading Spouses,” saying that Fox had benefited from ABC’s extensive promotions for “Wife Swap,” leading viewers to think they were tuning in to the ABC show. “I don’t think - I know - people were confused,” Mr. McPherson said. “The only thing I underestimated was how unethical and desperate my competitors are.”
Fox has heard the charges all summer. Gail Berman, the president of Fox Entertainment, rejected the accusation that Fox copied programs but acknowledged that it did a spin on the ideas of others. “Spin is a fair assessment,” she said, “That’s a word I can endorse.”
Fox’s defense has been to point to a history of rampant imitation of ideas in television. Fox executives call the network’s behavior business as usual and dismiss its rivals as whiners.
Others call Fox’s actions far from business as usual, noting that because of the unscripted nature of reality programs - everything rests on a format - a network can, for the first time, filch ideas before the originals can get on the air.