What do Bones, Narcos, Glee, The Walking Dead, and Black Widow all have in common? They were all involved in profit-sharing lawsuits with showrunners, totaling over half a billion dollars in litigation fees and settlements. In fact, four of those productions were within the past six years. With the explosion of hundreds of new content spread across thirty-five top streaming providers and 200 streaming platforms worldwide, these showrunner lawsuits are just the tip of the iceberg.
tap. offers a solution for showrunners to clearly communicate, track deal flow, and book the entire cast and crew on its immutable AI robust software system. Developed by a team of intellectual property and transactional attorneys, tap. is the precursor for showrunners to avoid lawsuits, and literally save millions in potential settlement fees and court costs. tap. verifies each user's identity and work experience and tracks all aspects of production, from development negotiations to distribution, via its machine learning immutable technology. The Deal Message Thread (DMT) is proclaimed as a patented feature designed to ensure transparency, align strategic efforts, and track the lifecycle of rights in the entire deal-making process from conception to marketplace. The DMT is an essential must-have productivity tool for showrunners to advance their career and avoid litigation.
In one example, the showrunner, creator, and executive producers of the Walking Dead (2010) are settling via private arbitration with AMC studios for misrepresenting MAGR (mass-adjusted gross receipts) calculations during contract negotiations. Essentially, MAGR calculation is one way executive producers and showrunners get paid for contributing to television production. Westlaw defines MAGR as “the TV, streaming series, or movie revenues a studio receives minus distribution fees and expenses, and development and production costs.”
According to the Dominic Patten of Deadline, "None of them or their representatives were provided with a MAGR definition from AMC while negotiating their contracts nor were told that the MAGR definition would include a binding arbitration provision."
If the plaintiffs of The Walking Dead negotiated terms via tap’s DMT, the software would flag the need for parties to define the MAGR terms. This could have avoided this $##MM lawsuit. The platform's immutable communications technology enables transparency and accessibility to the deal-making process to help spot these red flags in advance and reconcile them.
Profit participation litigations are common disputes facing showrunners, with many being settled out of court, according to Dale Kinsella and Nick Soltman of The Hollywood Reporter. They report many misconceptions about these kinds of litigations, even amongst showrunners and those closest to the projects. There is clearly a need for a more streamlined and organized approach to managing contracts, negotiations, and communication channels for showrunners.
In one recent case, Patrick Hipes of Deadline reported that Narcos executive producer José Padilha recently settled his lawsuit against Eric Newman over millions of dollars in profits from the hit Netflix drama. The original lawsuit cited that both producers agreed to split 50/50 revenue from the show - however, Newman had allegedly concealed significant Narcos revenue from Padilha.
In 2011, Nellie Andreeva of Deadline wrote about the same issue affecting the showrunners and talent of Fox’s Glee (2009). Michael Novick, a former Glee producer, agreed to a lower credit and fee in exchange for 15% of the show’s backend profits when the project was starting. He left the show, suing Ian Brennan, the show’s co-creator, claiming that he was the one who initiated the show’s creation in the first place, not Brennan.
As seen in the Glee case, profit-sharing lawsuits are not an exclusively recent issue in show business. tap.’s DMT solve many of these issues by placing critical information in a central location and making communication efficient.
According to Michelle Kaminsky of Forbes, yet another compensation-related lawsuit happened in 2019 regarding Fox executives and the popular drama Bones. In the article, Kaminsky wrote, “Arbitrator Peter Lichtman uses 66 pages to scold Fox executives regarding what he calls “reprehensible conduct” in paying below market rates to license Bones…wrongfully withholding profits from actors Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz, executive producer Barry Josephson, and author Kathy Reichs. Then, according to Lichtman, they lied about the lowballed deals to cover them up.”
In 2021, Scarlett Johansson famously filed a public lawsuit against Disney regarding the release of Black Widow. She claimed the studio sacrificed box office earnings by releasing the film on Disney+ instead. Per Pamela McClintock and Eriq Gardner of The Hollywood Reporter, the lawsuit claims that Disney breached Johansson’s contract, a claim they refuted.
Mikey O'Connell of The Hollywood Reporter recently shared a list of the most powerful showrunners of 2022, including Bisha K. Ali and Jessica Gao or Ms. Marvel and Jesse Armstrong of Succession. These rising creators in the industry deserve protection and compensation for their work, just as much as the veterans.
If these critically acclaimed entertainment professionals negotiated terms via tap.’s patented DMT technology, they might have more protection and received the proper compensation. The AI software technology would stop future profit-sharing lawsuits like this from recurring by providing accessibility, accountability, and transparency in contract negotiations.
tap. helps showrunners communicate directly with talent, producers, directors, and production houses – the people that matter in entertainment. The app’s software enables them to manage their networks and connections, save money, avoid profit-sharing litigations, and advance their career trajectory. tap. is on a mission to help film, TV, music, radio, and publishing professionals connect, network, bookwork, and manage their entire entertainment career; this includes showrunners. Headquartered in Playa Vista, CA, tap. is for everyone who works in the global media and entertainment industry. For more information, visit www.tap.ec. and follow the company on Instagram @tap.ec.
About Beka Ashley:
Beka is tap.’s Senior Communications Editorial Assistant. She manages the growing publication strategy for tap., including writing for the website’s blog and editing other interns’ current industry research. In addition to this role, she works as a freelance writer and critical care nurse. You can connect with her on LinkedIn or see more of what she’s written here.
About Luke Ressler:
Luke is a research assistant with tap. advising on matters affecting showrunners and other industry leaders. He holds a BA in Music Industry Studies from Albright College and is a current Master's student at Carnegie Mellon University, where he studies Arts, Entertainment, and Media Management. He is passionate about qualitative research and strives to be a trustworthy beacon of truth in the digital information age. He hopes to educate others on how they can make informed and ethical digital decisions. You can connect with him and see more of what he’s written on Linkedin.