Bones, the drama, is off TV, but the Bones drama lives on. An arbitrator has found that the 21st Century Fox Television studio defrauded the creative team behind Bones, according to the Wall Street Journal, and awarded stars David Boreanaz and Emily Deschanel and producers Barry Josephson and Kathleen Reichs a massive $178.7 million in damages.
Per the arbitration documents, the studio made a deal to air Bones with the Fox network and Hulu (a company then co-owned by 21st Century Fox), which violated a contract clause requiring that the terms of any deal meet “comparable monetary terms” with similar shows produced by other studios. According to the WSJ, the debate centered on a deal to renew Bones after its fourth season, in which the network renegotiated in its own favor instead of renewing the show according to the existing deal, which would have favored the producers and stars. “The obvious inferences of self-dealing, conflict of interest and the lack of any arm’s length negotiations leap off the page,” the arbitrator claimed.
21st Century Fox tells the WSJ that it’s seeking to void $128.5 million of the damages, and insists that it will fight “this flagrant injustice, riddled with errors and gratuitous character attacks.”
The decision, as The Hollywood Reporter points out, reflects the complicated, potentially shady nature of deals made between studios, networks, and streaming services (like 21st Century Fox TV, the Fox network, and Hulu), when one corporation owns or co-owns all of them. Things will undoubtedly get more complex once the deal between Disney and 21st Century Fox goes through, as it will create even more possibilities for entertainment giants to take advantage of vertical integration. It also raises the question of how often this has happened with other shows that may have been sold a discount to studio-owned or partially owned streaming services like Hulu to benefit corporations over creators. Peak TV gets ever more complicated by the minute.