Written by Stefani B. Joslin
From 1993 to 2003, actor Chuck Norris starred in the hit television series, Walker, Texas Ranger (“Walker”). When the show began in 1993, Norris entered into a contract with CBS and SONY Pictures over how he and his company, Top Kick Productions (“Top Kick”), would receive profits from the show.
Recently, Norris claimed he has not received the profits that were promised to him not under the agreement. Through Top Kick, he filed suit on January 31st in the Los Angeles Superior Court against CBS and SONY for $30 million, alleging breach of contract and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.
CBS and SONY had contractually agreed to pay Norris, through Top Kick, 23% of the revenue from the show. This agreement also prevented CBS from deducting revenue costs that were unrelated to the production of Walker.
The 23% clause was meant to be stable over time and have similar longevity. A layout of how profit would be calculated through the showing of the program, for instance on television or DVDs, was also set out in the contract. CBS and SONY were obligated to accurately report revenue, as well as other expenses related to Walker, in order for Top Kick to be paid the proper profit percentage. All third party agreements were also to be accounted for and shown to Norris and Top Kick.
Norris’ complaint states three causes of action: (1) breach of contract against CBS; (2) breach of the implied covenant and good faith and fair dealings against both companies; and (3) accounting against both companies.
Norris claims CBS and SONY have materially breached the contract by consciously seeking to market and sell Walker in a way that still collects revenue but does not pay Norris or Top Kick. The companies have allegedly used fees and revenues, through the continuous exploitation of Walker, to materially breach the agreement, failing to pay the profits owed to Norris.
According to Norris, Walker’s success is due to his work and popular image. In direct response to that, Norris alleges CBS used his “imagery” of being a social icon and movie star as the distributor of the Walker series on television and video. “CBS was among the networks that were fully aware of Chuck Norris’ success, history, brand, and image,” Norris’ lawyer stated, “which resulted in CBS agreeing to become the primary distributor of [Walker].”
Norris’ complaint also states the companies have rejected and ignored deals with third parties that were willing to pay premium for Walker, and they “instead chose to engage in self-dealing transactions to benefit only themselves.” One example is Katz Broadcasting, which had a license for Walker and wished to extend its license through SONY for an additional four years, totaling $5 million dollars. SONY, according to the complaint, ignored Katz’s offer and allowed for the license period to lapse, giving Walker away to a lower-tier cable network that was owned by SONY.
Moreover, no agreements or copies were ever presented or reported to Norris or Top Kick, relating to CBS and SONY entering into licensing and other agreements with third parties. By failing to report these agreements with third parties, as well as ignoring third parties who wanted to pay a larger percentage, Norris claims the companies did not act in good faith within their contractual obligations and have used his popularity and “imagery” as a social icon for exploitation.
With changes in technology, CBS and SONY have been using streaming video-on demand (“S-VOD”), instead of focusing on television and DVDs. This, according to the contract, falls under exploitation. As a result, since 2004, that S-VOD revenue has not been accounted for when calculating Walker’s profit.
The complaint states Top Kick and Norris do not know how much revenue has been generated through S-VOD alone, since the companies had failed to accurately report. With the show’s success and popularity, however, more than $692 million has been generated in total revenue. According to Norris, CBS and SONY have failed to pay him his share “of the profits earned from any, and all, exploitation of Walker.”
Norris and Top Kick have requested a trial by jury. No comment has been made by officials from CBS or SONY.
Ashley Cullins, Chuck Norris Hits CBS, Sony With $30M Lawsuit over ‘Walker, Texas Ranger’ Profits, The Hollywood Reporter (Feb. 1, 2018,).
Complaint and Demand for Jury Trial, Top Kick Productions v. CBS Broadcasting, CBS Corp., SONY Pictures Television, No. BC-692372 (Super. Ct. of Cal., Los Angeles Ctny.).
Denise Petski, Chuck Norris Sues CBS & Sony TV For $30M Over ‘Walker, Texas Ranger’ Profits, Deadline (Feb, 1, 2018).
Douglas Ernst, Chuck Norris takes on Sony, CBS in $30M lawsuit over ‘Walker, Texas Ranger’ profits, Washington Times (Feb 2, 2018).
Nicole Bitette, Chuck Norris is suing CBS, Sony for $30 M over ‘Walker, Texas Ranger’ profits, N.Y. Daily News (Feb. 2, 2018).
Photo courtesy of Amazon.