The Walking Dead is the first show AMC ever produced and distributed by itself, and at one time was the most popular show on cable television. It all started with that first season in 2010, when Shawshank Redemption director Frank Darabont served as showrunner. It got the show off to a good start, but was plagued by behind-the-scenes difficulties involving the budget and, if you believe Darabont’s expletive-laden emails from the time, incompetence up and down the chain. That all resulted in AMC firing Darabont ahead of the show’s second season and refusing to pay his cut of a profit-sharing arrangement. The resulting legal battle dragged for nearly a decade but finally came to an end the other week when Darabont and AMC settled out of court.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, AMC paid Darabont and his reps nearly $200 million. In return, they called off the suit and gave up “most of their rights” to anything related to The Walking Dead, which is probably good for AMC since the network has plans to turn TWD into a mega-franchise with spinoffs continuing into infinity.
Hollywood makes changes to avoid The Walking Dead case happening again
Now, had this case gone to court, we could have had a final say on the kinds of profit-sharing agreements at issue here, but because this was a settlement, next steps remain unclear. Still, insiders think this will have an effect. “The success of The Walking Dead, and even the litigation itself, resulted in clarifications and changes to artists’ profit definitions by the studios to avoid the same issues raised by the Walking Dead case,” attorney Larry Stein told THR.
I’m not going to claim to know exactly what that means, but the gist seems to be that studios are going to try and move away from deals where creatives are paid depending on the eventual success of a show they made. Disney, for instance, is giving creatives bigger payments up front, with bonuses tied to seasons, episodes, awards, and other hard targets. “We’re heading to a world that overpays for failure and underpays for success,” said attorney Robert Schwartz.
That sounds like it could cause its own legal problems down the road, but that’ll be then, I guess.
h/t The A.V. Club