Disney is able to keep most streaming revenue from older titles due to outdated contracts and Bill Nye The Science Guy isn’t thrilled.
Disney is all in when it comes to streaming and its bets have been paying off quite handsomely, as seen with the overwhelming success of shows like The Mandalorian and WandaVision. With Disney Plus nearing 100 million worldwide subscribers, the company is raking in huge profits, in fact too much profit according to Bill Nye.
Nye became a famous science advocate in the ’90s and his show Bill Nye the Science Guy became the perfect vehicle for children of all ages to learn scientific concepts in a fun and unique way, turning his educational segments into critically acclaimed television. Fast forward to 2017, when Nye and his attorneys decided they weren’t happy with the revenue distribution agreement that was in place with Disney since the days of the VCR and suddenly there’s a chemical reaction that results in a years-long legal battle.
That case was recently ruled in favor of Disney by a judge from the Los Angeles Superior Court after interpreting the contract signed in 1993 between Nye and Buena Vista Television, a Disney subsidiary. The crucial matter in the case lies in whether or not content can be considered “home video” when Disney distributes it via streaming platforms on the internet like Disney Plus. If considered home video, Disney gets to keep 90% of the profits from Nye’s show, with the remaining 10% left to be split among Nye and the producers.
According to Nye’s lawyers, Disney is simply taking advantage of a preposterous interpretation of a contract clause that far predates the existence of streaming at all. Another attorney who consulted on the matter explained that is not the industry standard nor how most studios handle streaming revenue that is tied to old contracts, as most companies simply add that revenue as “gross receipts” not subject to the kind of stipulations that apply to old “home video.”
Court documents reveal that Disney has treated that revenue as “home video” since 2008-2009 when Nye’s content started generating income. The “home video” clause is supposed to cover actual distribution costs for the company, which Nye thought referred to physical media only, but instead, Disney has applied that provision to digital media which has little to no distribution costs.
The ruling against Nye’s claim is still subject to an appeal, so there is no set precedent. However, Disney’s policy is a huge warning sign for creative professionals. Clearly, the advent of the digital and mobile age means streaming companies have practically zero variable costs in order to deliver their content to millions of people. So hopefully, Nye’s case will have a happy ending, just like Dave Chappelle’s recent scuffle over Chappelle’s Show.
Bill Nye The Science Guy is now available on Goole Play.
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