WPT Enterprises (WPTE), owners of the immensely successful World Poker Tour (WPT) television show, has sued the Travel Channel (TRV) and its owner Discovery Communications Inc. for breach of contract and intentional interference.
The case was filed this past Monday, September 19, with the Los Angeles Superior Court and sees the WPTE claiming damages and court orders. The issue at hand is the development of a new series, Professional Poker Tour (PPT), which WPTE is seeking to develop with third-party broadcaster ESPN.
According to the existing contractual agreement signed by WPTE and TRV in regards to the WPT, the broadcasting network has first dibs on any poker-related television show that WPTE creates. If after 60 days TRV declines to license the show, WPTE has the right to shop it around to other networks, giving TRV a last right to refusal.
WPTE claims to have submitted the PPT proposal to TRV in July 2004 but the two firms failed to negotiate an agreement within the allotted 60 day period and so WPTE began to look for other potential networks. It received a developmental offer from ESPN on September 12th, 2005, which triggered a 15-day period in which TRV could chose to match ESPN's offer.
Instead, WPTE alleges that the network sent letters to both WPTE and ESPN threatening legal action and claiming it had previously licensed the new series and that WPTE was not entitled to negotiate a licensing deal with a third-party. WPTE filled its current suit in response to TRV's letters, seeking a ruling that would prohibit TRV from interfering with third-party negotiations. TRV has until Tuesday, September 27th to match ESPN's offer. If they decline, WPTE reportedly plans to sign a PPT deal with ESPN.
Despite the current proceedings, both sides assert that they are committed to continuing to develop the World Poker Tour franchise together. The WPT television series is ranked as the most successful show ever broadcast on the Travel Channel and is credited with having sparked the current poker boom.