It was with gritted teeth that Celador gave away a million this week. Not because of another cheating contestant but because it failed to disguise its greed in court.
It was with gritted teeth that Celador gave away a million this week. Not because of another cheating contestant but because it failed to disguise its greed in court.

The £1m is an interim payment to Arief, the former Indonesian licence holder of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?. Celador broke its licence contract with Arief, which responded with a £23m damages claim last year.

Celador's attempt to justify not renewing the licence with Arief is a tale of twist and intrigue to rival that of the coughing Major, a story of covered-up paper trails aimed at disguising a simple fact: Celador had found an Australian company prepared to pay five times more for the licence. The High Court judges were not fooled and criticised Celador for 'scratching around' to find a reason, which even included an initial plan to accuse Arief of producing too many episodes.

Celador was found guilty of depriving Arief of a very lucrative contract (Arief claims around $2m per year) and its behaviour has been exposed in court. But, as a format owner, it has every right to try to share in a property's increased commercial success. This was obviously the wrong way to go about it and, as indies prepare to take greater ownership of their rights and exploit them overseas, lessons must be learnt - or the floodgates will open. Celador already faces a similar action from Shamesal, a Kenyan company which also used to license the show.

Instead of relying on common but clearly simplistic and outmoded deals which, like Celador's, involve a set percentage increase in the licence fee year on year, producers should be looking for more intelligent solutions. One could involve pegging licence fee increases to performance.

So, for example, the more successful a format, the greater the share of profits for the licensee. Meanwhile the licensor would share in improved performance with its licence fee rising incrementally rather than remaining as a fixed percentage.

For Celador, whose turnover runs into many millions, the Arief payout means little. But as Major Charles Ingram will confirm, what starts as an irritating tickle can sometimes develop into something more serious.