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Banijay to battle legal threat over format

Formats-logo-460_2Banijay Group has responded to Israeli prodco Abot Hamieri, which alleges the Danish arm of the France-based TV giant stole an idea for its All Against 1 format, by saying it will fight the claims.

Banijay also claims the allegations have been timed to disrupt its sales effort at MIPCOM.

Lewis Silkin is representing Abot Hamieri, and formal legal documents for breach of copyright and breach of confidence have been prepared, with the matter likely to go to court if a solution cannot be found soon.

Banijay has moved swiftly to deny any wrongdoing, and is looking at whether Abot Hamieri’s Best of All in fact steals elements from All Against 1. “Banijay Group strongly defends its position with regards to All Against 1,” the production and distribution company said in a statement.

It claimed that publicising the dispute was a deliberate attempt to derail its MIPCOM efforts. “All Against 1 had an extremely successful series air on DR1 in Denmark launching in May earlier this year,” according to the firm. “The format has also been highly publicised in the trade press for many months – only now have such claims been made by Abot Hameiri – timed to cause maximum disruption to our sales efforts at MIPCOM.”

The issue centres on All Against 1 and its likeness to a Dori Media-distributed format titled Best of All (originally titled Are You Smarter Than the Crowd?). Both shows use the central idea of the ‘wisdom of crowds’ theory – that statistically a group of individuals will display superior judgement than one expert.

Abot Hamieri pitched Best of All to Banijay Zodiak Nordic (then Banijay Nordic), the Denmark-based arm of Banijay, at MIPTV in 2014. The format pits individuals against an audience answering questions based on intuition and estimation, with viewers answering questions through an app.

After the initial pitch meeting between Banijay Zodiak Nordic-owned Nordisk Film TV Denmark and About Hamieri it is claimed there were several follow-ups that revealed the format structure in more details, including through a bible and a sizzle real. Nordisk then passed on the Best of All format in June 2014.

Then in April of this year, Danish pubcaster DR1 launched a Nordisk Film TV Denmark-produced show, Alle Mod 1 (All Against 1), which Abot Hamieri claims reproduces several elements of its format. The show and its associated app were a big success for the network.

Zodiak Rights, the sales arm of Banijay after the firm’s merger with Zodiak Media earlier this year, is now launching All Against One at MIPCOM, with Dori concurrently launching Best of One.

It is claimed Banijay’s lawyers have denied any claims of copying and also claimed Abot Hamieri’s pitch was not confidential. Abot Hamieri’s argument contends the latter point contravenes the way the international TV business works, that it is not convention to seek binding assurances ahead of a market pitch, and that there are consequences for the industry if that is not the case.

Legal action was threatened after no explanation was allegedly offered and a barrister was instructed to prepare for proceedings. This Friday, however, Banijay’s lawyers responded and claimed its format was derived from another format, King of Chess, which is in the Zodiak Rights catalogue.

It said the show was originally developed for TV2’s Format Lab in 2013 as King of Chess and was later presented to NRK, before launching on the Norwegian net in 2014.

“Following the successful broadcast of the show in Norway, NRK asked Banijay for an entertainment show with the same premise – one person taking on the entire nation in a live show – but with a wider, more mainstream interest base than chess,” Banijay said. “Nordisk Film TV Denmark further developed King of Chess – including the use of the app originally developed for King of Chess – and All Against 1 was created.”

Banijay also alleged similarities between the Abot Halmieri format and elements of several other existing shows and formats, which Coad and his team are now examining.

Abot Halmieri’s legal team has now given Banijay another chance to provide evidence All Against 1 came from an independent creative process. Should this not happen, formal legal proceedings appear inevitable.

Banijay maintains its innocence in the matter. It noted that it will look at the Abot Halmieri format when it goes out in Israel on Reshet later this year.

The Best of All has not yet aired, however from what we understand there are many differences between this and All Against 1. We reserve our rights if we consider that some of our key features have been copied,” it said.

Banijay was involved in a formats spat with Eyeworks in 2012, when the French company claimed the latter had used elements of a Banijay diving format in its celebrity diving programme Splash. In the same year, the company beat a legal claim from Endemic Shine Group predecessor Endemol, which had alleged Banijay stole elements of the formats Secret Story and Loft Story in its D9 series Dilemme.

Lewis Silkin recently represented Love Productions in a formats spat with the BBC, when the produce claimed the pubcaster was ripping off its format The Great British Bake Off to make reality shows such as Hair. According to reports, the BBC settled out of court. However, the incident is thought to have played a part in Love ultimately moving the popular format to BBC rival Channel 4 in a £75 million (US$92 million) deal.

Meanwhile, singing competition format The Voice has been the subject of dispute this year, with Irish producer Roy Barry claiming Talpa Media stole the idea from his Voice of America concept, which he says was developed back in 2008. He is Cannes offering the format to free, and challenging Talpa to take him on.

 

Full statement from the Banijay Group

“Banijay Group strongly defends its position with regards to All Against 1.

“All Against 1 had an extremely successful series air on DR1 in Denmark launching in May earlier this year. The format has also been highly publicised in the trade press for many months – only now have such claims been made by Abot Hameiri – timed to cause maximum disruption to our sales efforts at MIPCOM.

“A format was originally developed for TV2’s Format Lab in 2013 – entitled King of Chess – it was later presented to NRK and aired in November 2014 on NRK.  Following the successful broadcast of the show in Norway, NRK asked Banijay for an entertainment show with the same premise – one person taking on the entire nation in a live show – but with a wider, more mainstream interest base than chess.  Nordisk Film TV Denmark further developed King of Chess (including the use of the App originally developed for King of Chess) and All Against 1 was created.

“The All Against 1 format is owned jointly by Nordisk Film TV Denmark, Nordisk Film TV Norway and Norwegian public broadcaster NRK.

“There are a number of other derivative entertainment formats from all over the world available on the market using similar but not the same mechanisms.

“All Against 1 is an interactive studio-based entertainment show which has been a smash hit on DR1 the public broadcaster in Denmark, and sees one contestant take on the entire nation live. Our understanding is The Best of All is pre-recorded and sees ten contestants play against each other and the studio audience.

“The Best of All has not yet aired however from what we understand there are many differences between this and All Against 1. We reserve our rights if we consider that some of our key features have been copied.

“The All Against 1 format is owned jointly by Nordisk Film TV Denmark, Nordisk Film TV Norway and Norwegian public broadcaster NRK.

We reserve our rights if we consider that some of our key features have been copied.”