Disney to Jury: This is Not the Final Answer
A jury verdict today ruled that Walt Disney Co. must pay $270 million in damages to Celador International.
The dispute was over the show "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?", a game show which quickly gained popularity 10 years ago where contestants were asked a series of questions escalating in value and difficulty up to $1 million. Britain-based Celador argued that Disney undervalued the show, even though it became a number-one hit on the ABC network that Disney owns.
Disney released a statement shortly after the verdict that said the company would appeal the decision.
Celador filed the case in 2004, saying that Disney owed it 50 percent of the royalties from the show. According to published reports, the parties tried to settle out of court several times, but negotiations failed and it resulted in a jury trial. During the trial, Celador suggested that Disney didn't pay fair value for the show's rights.
"This is money to which we're entitled and Disney endeavoured to avoid paying it. I'm delighted we're going to get it," Celador's founder Paul Smith told the Guardian. "It's been debilitating and it's been very, very difficult at times. But I'm delighted that in a David against Goliath story, David has won."
Created for television in the UK in 1998, the show first aired on US screens in 1999 with ubiquitous television personality Regis Philbin as host. At the height of its popularity, the quiz show aired several nights a week during primetime. Contestants were encouraged to "think out loud" while considering their answers, which spawned the well-known question from Philbin, "Is that your final answer?"
Contestants also had options called "lifelines" which allowed them to make it easier to make the correct "final answer." This feature caused "phone a friend" and "ask the audience" to enter the public realm for times when people needed extra help in real life.
After a while, the show was criticized by viewers for having questions which seemed too easy in the early, low-money rounds.
Eventually, the show moved out of primetime, changed hosts and became a daytime staple. "TODAY" show co-anchor Meredith Vieira, formerly of ABC's "The View," now hosts "Millionaire."
The show has also proliferated to other countries around the globe. And a similar version was used as the premise for the Bollywood hit "Slumdog Millionaire," an Academy Award-winning motion picture.