'The Apprentice' legal tangle takes a fresh twist

MUMBAI: It is all about the money honey! Reality television has generated ratings by showing the extent of participants' unadulterated greed for money. It now seems that the people creating and marketing the shows are no different.

A week ago the creator of the reality show The Apprentice Mark Burnett sued entertainment company Madison Road accusing it of telling advertisers that it has exclusive rights to broker agreements to place products on the show. Burnett had accused Madison Road of overcharging advertisers, demanded exorbitant fees and then pocketing money that should have gone to him.

Now Madison Road has filed a countersuit seeking $40 million for defamation and trade libel.


Madison Road disputes the claim in Burnett's suit that it misrepresented its relationship with Burnett and charged up to 250 per cent more than Burnett's fee for placements. The nasty fight stems from the two companies' involvement in product placement deals with the successful NBC show. Most episodes involve contests showcasing brand-name products, such as a battle to see which team could sell more Mars and M&M candy bars.

The Madison Road countersuit cites an e-mail purported to be from Kevin Harris, co-executive producer for Mark Burnett Productions, to Madison Road and AIM Productions, a New York-based product placement firm, asking for a $5 million fee for placements on the third season of The Apprentice.

Madison Road has stated, "Burnett is the 800-pound gorilla who is making fabricated, defamatory and malicious accusations about Madison Road and then spreading those lies to third parties. Burnett is emulating the conniving, unethical and devious behavior that often leads to success for his reality show contestants.

"Madison Road purchased from Mark Burnett's companies the opportunity for a task sponsorship on The Apprentice on an episode by episode basis, and then marketed and sold those opportunities to sponsors for a fair fee based on the actual success of the programme. There was nothing underhanded about the manner in which Madison Road secured or sold the opportunities.

"It was Burnett — not Madison Road — who drove up the price of getting a product front and center on The Apprentice to as much as $5 million. Then when the market wouldn't bear his fees he looked for a scapegoat. Indeed it was Madison Road who began questioning the outlandish fees demanded by Burnett's companies, not the other way around".

Madison Road has been credited with bringing Procter & Gamble's Crest, Levi's and Mars to The Apprentice and those three brands are mentioned in a letter purported to be from Harris thanking Madison Road and AIM for their help securing marketers for The Apprentice's second season.



Media reports indicate that Burnett filed his lawsuit was filed at the same time his company is expanding the internal team it uses to broker and manage branded-entertainment deals with advertisers for Survivor, The Apprentice, The Contender, the upcoming Rock Star and two upcoming shows starring Martha Stewart.


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