Judge delays ruling as Fox Family makes debut
NEW YORK– MTV Networks will have to wait a bit longer to find out whether Fox Kids Worldwide and News Corp. are liable for damages because they hired former Nick at Nite/TV Land president Rich Cronin while he was still under contract to MTV Networks.
New York Supreme Court Judge Herman Cahn reserved decision Friday on MTV Network’s motion for summary judgment, which the Viacom-owned company filed on Thursday. Fox Kids then filed a counter summary judgment request.
The motion was filed two days before the Family Channel transformed into the Fox Family Channel, with a new programming lineup and image.
When Cronin signed the contract to become president and CEO of Fox Family Channel last October, he had nine months remaining on his MTV Networks contract.
Fox Kids Worldwide and Fox Family Channel are joint ventures between Saban Entertainment and News Corp.
If Judge Cahn finds Saban and News Corp. liable, the amount of damages will be decided at a trial.
MTV Networks is seeking compensatory and punitive damages in the millions of dollars as well as $750,000 in legal expenses.
In February, Judge Cahn approved an injunction brought by MTV Networksm which forbade Cronin from working at Fox Family until his MTV Networks contract expired on July 1.
Saban Entertainment and News Corp. maintain that MTV Networks has suffered no damages because the company has not lost any profits because of Cronin’s departure from Nick at Nite and TV Land.
MTV Networks dismissed this argument in Thursday’s motion.
“It is simply preposterous to claim that there are no damages when it is undisputed that defendants’ conduct deprived MTVN for nine months out of a three-year contract of an individual found to have unique skills, and whom defendants were prepared to pay $20 million,” MTV networks wrote in its motion.
(As part of his deal, Fox Kids and News Corp. have indemnified Cronin against lawsuits from MTV Networks, in addition to providing him with a package worth $20 million. Cronin also has options to buy up to 1% of Fox Kids, which has been valued at $2.8 billion.
Cronin faces an uphill battle in relaunching The Family Channel as Fox Family.
On Saturday, Fox Family dropped all of The Family Channel’s programming , which featured popular off-network series such as “Diagnosis Murder,” in exchange for kids programming all day and originally-produced shows in the evening aimed at both kids and their parents. Fox Family’s primetime schedule also features a theatrical movie every night at 9 p.m.
Fox Family hopes to draw heavy concentrations of kids, teens and young adults with originally-produced fare such as “Show Me the Funny” and “Life Camera Action.”
Though skewing toward older viewers, the Family Channel had emerged as one of cable’s highest rated networks in primetime. The week of Aug. 3-9, saw the Family Channel in fourth place in the primetime race with a 1.7 cable universe rating and 1.2 million households.
The only returning show from The Family Channel’s old schedule will be Pat Robertson’s evangelical “700 Club.” Robertson insisted his show remain on the channel as a condition of his agreement to sell the network.
But the religious show has caused Fox Family trouble on two fronts. Some critics find “The 700 Club’s” sentiments offensive and others complain that the show will disrupt the cable network’s audience flow. Beginning Sept. 9, “The 700 Club” will run from 9:30-11 a.m. and 11 p.m.–midnight weekdays.