On Wednesday, a nearly five-year battle came to a close when the creative team behind Bones reached a settlement with Fox. This settles lawsuits over profit-sharing that were first filed in 2015 by actors Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz, forensic anthropologist and author Kathy Reichs, and executive vice president Barry Josephson.
These four accused Fox of defrauding them of their rightful share of profits for the American crime drama. Bones, which first aired in 2015, has nearly 250 episodes and spans 12 seasons. Despite the show’s success, its profits were dependent on how much money Fox’s studio division charged the network’s distribution affiliates for streaming rights. The lawsuit sought to determine whether or not Fox was guilty of undercharging license fees to sister companies, impacting the profits that should have been allocated to the case’s defendants.
Years after the suit was first filed, the case hit a breakthrough. In February, a judge determined that Fox wrongfully downplayed Bones’ success in order to justify lower licensing fees. Peter Lichtman, the arbitrator of the case, awarded the plaintiffs $179 million in damages. Lichtman ruled that Fox was guilty of multiple counts of fraud.
An attack on Fox’s top television executives accompanied Lichtman’s ruling. He accused them of appearing “to have given false testimony in an attempt to conceal their wrongful acts.” He continued by saying that Rupert Murdoch’s network has taken a “cavalier attitude toward its wrongdoing” while manifesting a “company-wide culture and an accepted climate that enveloped an aversion for the truth.”
The award was eventually reduced to $51 million after the parties returned to an L.A. courtroom. This came down to the fact that under their Bones agreements Deschanel, Boreanaz, and Reichs were only entitled to actual damages and legal fees, not any punitive damages that contributed to the original $179 million reward.
In avoidance of a $128 million appeal, the parties eventually arrived at a settlement. The terms of this agreement are not currently available.
This news comes at a turning point in Hollywood, as major studios continue to expand by way of major acquisitions and are attempting to compete against streaming powerhouses like Netflix. This has brought on an onslaught of new streaming services, as studios pull streaming rights from Netflix and distribute popular series likeWarner Bros.’ Friends on their own new platforms.
This Bones settlement will likely impact the way that studios approach the formation of new license deals for shows like The Office and Friends. Disney is already rumored to be exploring new pay structures for top TV creatives.
Despite these progressions, Lichtman remains doubtful of longterm industry change. The arbitrator questions whether the award “given Fox’s financial condition and lack of contrition serves to deter the wrongful conduct at issue here, or whether it will be considered part of the cost of doing business.”