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Jury orders Disney to pay 270 million dollars to 'Millionaire' creators

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-07-08

Entertainment giant Walt Disney Co was ordered to pay 270 million dollars to British company Celador after a US jury ruled that Disney failed to pay the full amount of royalties for the US version of hit TV programme "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire".

REUTERS - Walt Disney Co will have to pay the British company that created “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire” $270 million in unpaid revenues from the popular TV game show, a U.S. jury ruled on Wednesday.

Celador Entertainment had sued Disney six years ago, but the case was only brought to trial in May before a jury in Riverside, California.

Disney chief executive Bob Iger said his company will appeal the decision.

“Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” debuted in Britain in 1998 and came to the United States on Disney’s ABC network the following year. It became a ratings smash for the Burbank-based Disney, with TV personality Regis Philbin as host.

Paul Smith, chairman of Celador, said the case came down to competing interpretations of the contract between his company and Disney.

“Clearly I’m delighted, this was a David against Goliath story. I think that very few small independent companies would dare to take on the giants—we did and we won,” Smith told Reuters by phone from London.

Celador had claimed it was owed 50 percent of revenue from airings of “Millionaire” in the United States and also from merchandising tied to the show, such as a board game.

Iger, who was among the witnesses called to testify earlier in the trial, told reporters the dispute all boils down to the contract.

“The judge and the jury got it completely wrong,” the Disney chief executive said on Wednesday at a media and technology conference in Sun Valley, Idaho.

Celador’s Smith said two expert witnesses that the company called to the stand during the trial testified that Celador could be owed between $200 million and $360 million, but that the jury came to its own calculation of $270 million in the case.

“Who Wants to be a Millionaire” still airs in syndication in the United States, with Meredith Vieira as host.

Date created : 2010-07-08