Steven Bochco’s long-running case against Twentieth Century Fox is headed for trial after a judge on Wednesday denied Fox’s motion for summary judgment. A trial date of April 9 has been set.
Producer Bochco alleges that his hit series “NYPD Blue” was licensed to Fox’s cable network, FX, at fees substantially below fair-market value. Bochco claims that the series was sold for $400,000 an episode when its real value was at least $700,000. At 200 episodes, damages, he claims, add up to $60 million.
Bochco’s attorney, Brian Lysaght, said, “The big news is that we broke through the last barrier and have a clear shot at a jury. All I ever wanted to do is get this case to trial.”
Lysaght has every reason to want to get in front of a jury. A few years ago he represented Ron Shelton in his suit against Fox over profits on “White Men Can’t Jump,” and won a verdict of $10 million.
On earlier motions, Fox was able to knock out Bochco’s fraud claims, but with Wednesday’s loss, Bochco can proceed to trial on breach of contract claims.
Fox’s attorney Anthony Basich said: “This case is about someone who struck a good deal and a few years later they think they could have done even better. There’s been no testimony that any cable network was willing to pay more than the $400,00 per episode that FX paid in 1995, which was a record price.”
Bochco’s suit was filed in L.A. Superior Court in September 1999, hot on the heels of a similar suit by David Duchovny over “X-Files.” That case has since been settled.
If the Bochco case goes to trial, it will be the first charging that vertically integrated entertainment companies are selling to themselves at below-market prices.