LOS ANGELES (CN) – The creators of AMC’s blockbuster cable show “The Walking Dead” sued the network on Monday, claiming it has deprived them of their fair share of profits in the show.
In a complaint filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Robert Kirkman, the creator of the “The Walking Dead” graphic novel, former show runner Glen Mazzara, and producers Gale Ann Hurd and David Alpert sued AMC on breach of contract claims.
This is not the first time AMC has faced legal action from one of the show’s creators. Over four years ago, “The Walking Dead” co-creator Frank Darabont sued AMC claiming it cheated him out of profits. He seeks $280 million in damages; the trial in that case is tentatively set for 2018.
“Plaintiffs and the other talent behind TWD [The Walking Dead] are the ones whose work to create, develop, write and produce the series has brought its huge success, but the fruits of that success have not been shared as they should be,” the latest lawsuit says.
According to Kirkman and the others, the network’s parent company controls AMC Studios – which makes the show – and AMC Network, giving it control over the production and distribution of “The Walking Dead,” and allowing it to take a greater share of profits at the expense of the producers.
“Specifically, the measure of ‘profit,’ for the purposes of profit participation in a television series, is typically realized at the production company level – if the production company makes a profit, it has to share it with the participants. In contrast, the network’s profit from exhibition typically is not shared with the participants – the conglomerate can keep all those profits for itself,” the lawsuit states. “As a consequence, when the production company and the network are part of the same conglomerate, as AMC Studios and AMC Network are here, there is a powerful financial incentive to keep the lion’s share of the profit at the network level and not pay a fair-market-value license fee to the production company – thereby depriving profit participants, like plaintiffs, of their fair share of the series’ profits.”
According to the producers, if AMC Studio and AMC Network were not the same entity the top-rated show would have commanded much higher license fees with a corresponding increase in the producers’ share.
“As a result, Kirkman, whose comic books were the basis for TWD [The Walking Dead], and the other plaintiffs, who helped to bring his vision to television, have been denied their contractual rights to participate fairly with the AMC entities in TWD’s success,” their lawsuit says.
They say AMC has used other methods to rob the producers of their fair share of profits, including improper deductions.
AMC said it had “enormous respect” for the Kirkman and producers and would continue to work with them, but calls their claims “baseless and predictably opportunistic.”
“Virtually every studio that has had a successful show has been the target of litigation like this, and ‘The Walking Dead’ has been the No. 1 show on television for five years in a row, so this is no surprise,” an AMC representative said, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Kirkman and the producers are represented but Ronald Nessim with Bird, Marella.
They seek unspecified actual and compensatory damages “substantially in excess of the jurisdictional minimum of this court for unlimited jurisdiction cases.”