Lawyers for Twenty-First Century Fox filed a writ of mandate to a California appellate court on Tuesday, February 21, as part of their ongoing lawsuit against Netflix. Twenty-First Century Fox, the company owned by media-mogul Rupert Murdoch and includes Fox, Fox News, the FX Networks, and a film division, initiated the suit in September 2016, after Netflix hired two senior executives away from the studio. The company alleges that Netflix engaged in a “‘brazen campaign to unlawfully target, recruit, and poach valuable Fox executives by illegally inducing them to break their employment contracts with Fox to work at Netflix.’”
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the writ was filed after Twenty-First Century Fox lost an initial challenge to the streaming giant in the Los Angeles Superior Court last month. In their petition, Twenty-First Century Fox claims that if the appellate court does not review the Superior Court’s order, the company will be vulnerable to having more executives poached by Netflix or other competitors in the months or years it takes to litigate the claim. The Appellate Court rejected a request for a stay, but has not yet rendered its decision.
While employment contracts are at the center of the immediate dispute, the conflict between the two takes place amidst Netflix’s ambitious growth plans, particularly in regards to original content. In addition to its original television programming, Netflix is attempting to grow its original film catalog, recently picking up Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, along with its $100 million price tag, The Atlantic reports. The film, starring Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, among others, is certainly Netflix’s biggest move into film distribution. It also comes as many traditional broadcast networks are considering their own streaming platform; CBS, for instance, recently launched The Good Fight as an exclusive on their CBS All-Access streaming platform, and are planning to do the same with their new Star Trek series later this year, per USA Today. Twenty-First Century Fox is also a major investor in Netflix’s largest streaming competitor, Hulu, which adds additional context to the current lawsuit.
Tyler Bittner is an Entertainment Highlight Contributor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current first year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2019).