TV News & Reviews

Landmark profit dispute over ‘Bones’ TV show ends in a settlement with Disney-Fox

The two stars and key producers of the hit TV show "Bones" have settled their profit-sharing dispute with studio 20th Century Fox Television, ending the high-profile case.

A studio spokesman on Wednesday confirmed that the parties had reached a settlement and that the matter had been resolved, but declined further comment.

Financial terms were not disclosed.

The deal, earlier reported by The Hollywood Reporter, comes after a Los Angeles judge in May overturned a massive $128.5-million punitive damages award to stars Emily Deschanel and David Boreanaz and two producers of the long-running show, representing a major victory for Fox. However, the judge left in place a $50-million judgment for actual damages.

Walt Disney Co. in March acquired the Fox studio as part of the Burbank entertainment giant's $71.3-billion acquisition of 21st Century Fox Inc.

The case was closely followed in the entertainment industry. Arbitrator Peter Lichtman stunned the television business in February by slapping Fox with a $178.7-million judgment. The "Bones" award was among the largest of its kind and highlighted the accounting practices of major studios and whether they shortchange talent.

In his decision, Lichtman had sharply criticized Fox executives, some of whom were poised to join Disney. Lichtman wrote in his decision that Fox had engaged in "reprehensible conduct" and that leaders, including former 21st Century Fox President Peter Rice and senior Fox TV executives Dana Walden and Gary Newman gave unconvincing testimony. Rice is now chairman of Walt Disney Television, and Walden is chairwoman of Disney Television Studios and ABC Entertainment.

Fox challenged the punitive damages decision, arguing that the arbitrator overstepped. The studio brought in litigator Daniel Petrocelli to make its case.

Litigation began in 2015 when Deschanel and Boreanaz, along with executive producer Barry Josephson and crime writer Kathy Reichs, sued Fox, accusing the television studio of cheating them out of millions of dollars in payments. They alleged that the studio charged licensing fees below market rates to its related divisions, the Fox Broadcasting network and Hulu, which also distributed the show. The alleged scheme resulted in lower payments to the profit participants, the plaintiffs said.

The crime drama ran from 2005 to 2017 on the Fox broadcast network, now part of Rupert Murdoch's Fox Corp., which owns the Fox assets Disney did not acquire.

Times Staff Writer Meg James contributed to this report

  Comments