The TLC reality series 7 Little Johnstons is at the heart of a legal battle freshly brewing between LMNO Productions and Discovery Communications, as a larger, more complex dispute over financing between the two companies wages on in a California federal court.
On Sept. 8, Discovery filed a writ of ownership asking that a U.S. District Court judge force LMNO to hand over production materials (consisting mostly of footage) relating to the second season of the reality series.
According to the filing, Discovery alleges the materials are being wrongfully withheld by LMNO, despite a payment by the media company of over $2 million for the show. The filing asserts that LMNO has demanded that Discovery pay it “hundreds of thousands of dollars more” before it will release the material.
In a statement to realscreen, Discovery said that the current season has finished filming and is expected to air on TLC this year, and that LMNO’s refusal to hand over the materials is holding up the final product.
LMNO denies the allegations. In its own statement, the television prodco said it will be responding officially to Discovery’s motion “through the appropriate legal channels.”
The contractual dispute over the show started in June when Discovery terminated contracts with the prodco on six series, including 7 Little Johnstons (pictured). The ensuing legal battle started off with a US$7 million lawsuit filed by LMNO, accusing Discovery of copyright infringement, breach of contract and attempting to “steal” the aforementioned titles by creating unauthorized derivative works. Discovery has countersued, claiming that LMNO overstated production budgets in order to get the company to foot the entire bill for both fully commissioned programs and copros for which the two parties agreed to split costs and rights.
On Sept. 8, after Discovery’s filed the ownership writ, LMNO filed its response to Discovery’s countersuit, calling its claims “simply untrue.”
“Discovery knows exactly what is required and what it costs to produce a successful reality television show. The notion that LMNO consistently bamboozled Discovery by convincing it to overpay for shows by 30% or more is absurd,” it said in the filing.
LMNO also denies that it has manipulated its books and records, and calls Discovery’s allegations that it maintained two sets of books “simply false.”
The prodco also filed a motion to have Discovery’s countersuit dismissed on the grounds that Discovery is failing to offer sufficient facts to support its claims.
The case has yet to go to trial and all allegations detailed by the companies in filings to date are unproven.