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BBC cuts ‘Link’ to ailing ECM

License fee debt causes pubcaster to pull show

LONDON — BBC Worldwide has withdrawn Asian distribution rights to hit gameshow “The Weakest Link” from U.K. distribber ECM and is seeking legal advice following a dispute over license fee payments.

ECM reportedly owes BBC Worldwide £1 million ($1.56 million) for licensing the format across most of Asia including Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan, Hong Kong and China. Company also reportedly owes Endemol $125,000 for licensing “Ready Steady Cook” to Greece.

ECM’s financial difficulties started when Procter & Gamble stopped financing its productions a year ago, after the bottom fell out of the advertising market. ECM specializes in barter deals whereby a broadcaster pays a lower license fee but trades a portion of its airtime in return for broadcast rights. P&G advertises its products around the shows it helped finance.

ECM chief operating officer Chris Bonney said it is going through a “financial restructure” and is in discussions with a “number of parties about possible outcomes.” Canadian-based format specialist Distraction Formats has signed a non-disclosure agreement with ECM and is evaluating the company and its assets.

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