Busy day for O’Donnell; DirecTV lets rivals help out

When you’re hot, you’re hot. Litigator Pierce O’Donnell goes to federal court in downtown L.A. this morning to argue for a preliminary injunction blocking release of the Steven Spielberg film “Amistad” on behalf of his client, author Barbara Chase Riboud.

But before he does that, he’ll make a stop across the hall to argue a Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) motion for clients FM Entertainment and producers Diane and Alan Mehrez. Back in July, Sylvester Stallone sued FM for $20 million for allegedly advertising the film “The Good Life” as a Stallone film, although he says he only made a cameo appearance for “minimal compensation.” (The $20 million damage figure represents Stallone’s standard starring fee.)

Since then, O’Donnell had the case removed to federal court and filed a racketeering claim charging Stallone and his brother Frank with making a “series of threats against Alan and Diane Mehrez and their companies that constitute criminal conduct.” The complaint specifies a telephone conversation “eerily reminiscent of ‘The Godfather,’ ” in which Frank Stallone states, “I told them you (mess) with him (Sly Stallone) and he will destroy you.” The complaint also states that the only reason the producers agreed to do business with Frank Stallone in the first place “was his repeated representation that his brother Sly would play a significant support role in ‘The Good Life.’ ”

“As if these two cases aren’t enough, my wife and I are also expecting that our son will be born today,” O’Donnell says.

In O’Donnell’s spare time, of course, there’s the copyright and trademark infringement case he filed on behalf of client Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studios last month challenging the right of Sony Pictures Entertainment to develop a series of new James Bond films. A response to the complaint in that case is expected in January.

— Janet Shprintz

NEW YORK — DirecTV, the satellite distributor of cable networks and pay-per-view movies and events, is laughing at the amazing willingness of its cable rivals to — in effect — help subsidize DirecTV’s free offering of the Dec. 12 Rolling Stones live concert to all its residential dish owners.

Sources say DirecTV and Viewer’s Choice, the pay-per-view distributor owned by top cable operators like Time Warner, TCI, Media One and Comcast, got together and decided to split the reported $3 million guarantee to the Stones. For that price, DirecTV got the rights to the concert for dish owners and Viewer’s Choice for cable subscribers. Viewer’s Choice slapped a retail price of $19.95 on the concert.

But DirecTV then turned around and made the free Stones concert a big feature of its holiday promotion cam-paign to get viewers to cancel their cable subscriptions and buy satellite dishes. The freebie means DirecTV will lose its $1.5 million investment in the concert. It’s a classic loss leader because DirecTV is convinced the offering will help to harvest more satellite dish customers.

The free concert is one of a number of DirecTV maneuvers to lure more subscribers. For example, in a major push to expand its subscriber base beyond the current 3 million households, DirecTV will announce Wednesday that it has signed a deal with Warner Bros. Domestic pay TV to produce a weekly music series exclusive to DirecTV subscribers.

And just a month ago, DirecTV signed a $200 million deal with a group of producers for as many as four new action-adventure series to be exec produced by, among others, Francis Ford Coppola, John Landis and Steven de Souza. DirecTV would get an exclusive first window on these series before they eventually went into domestic TV syndication or to a basic-cable network.

— John Dempsey

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