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Fri, Jul 09, 2010 - Page 10 News List

Disney ordered to pay ‘Millionaire’ creator US$270m

REUTERS , LOS ANGELES

Walt Disney Co will have to pay the British company that created Who Wants to be a Millionaire US$270 million in unpaid revenues from the popular TV game show, a US 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 would appeal the decision.

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

Celador chairman Paul Smith 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 said by telephone from London.

Celador had claimed it was owed 50 percent of revenue from airings of Who Wants to be a Millionaire in the US 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 that the dispute all boils down to the contract.

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

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

Who Wants to be a Millionaire still airs in syndication in the US, with Meredith Vieira as host.

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