The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman and producers Gale Ann Hurd, Glen Mazzara, and David Alpert have filed a lawsuit agaist AMC to recover what they allege are profits from the show owed to them by the network, according to The Hollywood Reporter. This follows an ongoing lawsuit against AMC over similiar matters by show co-creator/original showrunner Frank Darabont.
"This case arises from a major entertainment conglomerate’s failure to honor its contractual obligations to the creative people - the 'talent,' in industry jargon - behind the wildly successful, and hugely profitable, long-running television series The Walking Dead," reads the complaint filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court. "The defendant AMC Entities exploited their vertically-integrated corporate structure to combine both the production and the exhibition of TWD, which allowed AMC to keep the lion’s share of the series’ enormous profits for itself and not share it with the Plaintiffs, as required by their contracts."
The lawsuit alleges that AMC withheld profits from Kirkman and the other named producers through a complicated scheme in which the network knowingly paid its in-house studio arm, which produces the series, less than the full market value of the show (as judged by non-AMC studios produced shows running on AMC such as Breaking Bad and Mad Men), thereby keeping more of the profits for the network than is contractually required.
Kirkman himself, the franchise's creator, is guaranteed a 5% profit share by his contract according to THR. He and the show's producers, who are each owed stakes in the show of between 1.5-7.5%, have not named a sum for which they are suing, but that information is expected shortly. Darabont's lawsuit, which he filed after being fired midway through the show's second season, was for an amount of $280 million and is currently in the summary judgement phase.
"There can be no question that, if AMC Studio[s] and AMC Network were not part of the same conglomerate, the story would be very different," states the complaint, which goes on to say, "Those substantial license fees for Mad Men and Breaking Bad continued in seasons five and beyond, even though their ratings were a fraction of TWD’s. And while the AMC Network only obtained a limited number of playdates for those series as part of the comparatively-higher license fees it paid for them (both on television and its affiliated websites), the AMC Entities unilaterally took for themselves the right to run an unlimited number of runs of TWD in perpetuity on all AMC platforms."
Kirkman recently signed a "first look" deal with Amazon Prime to develop original content. It's unclear how this affects his prior first look deal with AMC.
THR also shared AMC's response to the lawsuit, the full text of which reads "These kinds of lawsuits are fairly common in entertainment and they all have one thing in common – they follow success. Virtually every studio that has had a successful show has been the target of litigation like this, and The Walking Dead has been the #1 show on television for five years in a row, so this is no surprise. We have enormous respect and appreciation for these plaintiffs, and we will continue to work with them as partners, even as we vigorously defend against this baseless and predictably opportunistic lawsuit."