Veteran TV producer Don Bellisario has sued CBS TV Studios over profits from “NCIS: Los Angeles” in a lawsuit that could turn on the definition of what exactly a series spinoff is.
Lawsuit, filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, claims the studio owes Bellisario a cut of the series because it is a spinoff of a show he created, “NCIS,” which itself is a spinoff of another show Bellisario produced, “JAG.”
Suit alleges that CBS TV Studios has made an “unreasonably narrow interpretation” of a clause in its contract with Bellisario regarding what constitutes a spinoff or sequel to “NCIS” so as to deny him a portion of revenues from the series.
“NCIS: LA” has been a success out of the gate for CBS, remaining a potent addition to the primetime sked of both CBS, where it’s currently in its second season, and USA, where it sold into syndication last year for a rich deal estimated to be worth $2.3 million per episode.
In addition, Bellisario’s attorney argues he was denied a “first opportunity” provision that required he be involved in the creation of any further installments of the “NCIS” franchise.
In response to the lawsuit, CBS TV Studios said in a statement: “Don Bellisario has no rights to what he is claiming in this suit. The contract is clear, the facts are undeniable and the courts won’t need Naval intelligence to conclude that the case has no merit. We continue to honor all of our obligations to Mr. Bellisario under the actual agreement.”