Pugilism or Just Plagiarism? Odds Are Madison Avenue Will Win This Bout

Fox is looking to knockout NBC as the next great champ in TV.

In this corner, Fox has the reality show "The Next Great Champ." NBC has "The Contender." Two shows that are looking for the next punch in reality programming for the all-important lead in the adults 18 to 49 race.

Both are now in court because NBC has cried foul. It says Fox stole the idea.

Who really wins this battle? Advertisers, that's who.

The New York Times, Variety, and the rest of the TV business press didn't include advertisers as a factor in the story. Right now, you have marketers on the sidelines, like a rich, bejeweled fight promoter, blowing on their nails.

"Fight it out, give us a good show, and get us the biggest ratings," they might say. (No doubt, they'll also have glamorous girlfriends on their arms.) "We don't care," they'll say. "Just bring on great high rated programming - any programming that can stop network rating erosion."

Surely, network advertising sales executives have tight relationships with media agency executives. But that won't help here. Who'll get Johnson & Johnson to pay big CPMs for its Band-Aid commercials right after a big rated episode? The one who can make the bigger bruise with viewers.



The first show to come on looks to be Fox - and that's what NBC, as well as producers Mark Burnett and DreamWorks SKG don't want. The first TV show in a particular niche usually brings home the gold in the 100-meter sprint of network television.

Looks like after yesterday's ruling, it's going to be Fox.

But, hey, stop grinning Fox. Mark Burnett showed you the pitch and you decided to do it yourself. The only thing you have on your side is that TV program ideas can't get patents.

So go ahead. Take the idea. We won't call it stealing.

We won't even call it original.

You too will have a "Rocky" type TV show, about some hapless pug with a poor family and a doe-eyed girlfriend in his attempt to become the next Oscar De La Hoya. He wants to pay his bills but can't seem to concentrate -- he has a headache from all that pounding. Then comes the commercial for Aleve or Advil or Bayer Aspirin.

The NBC show will also get a headache - perhaps a bigger pain -- but advertisers will buy it too.

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