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Fox Moves Up 'Champ' Show

The new premiere date leads a judge to reschedule a hearing in DreamWorks' suit.

August 21, 2004|Scott Collins | Times Staff Writer

The next episode in television's great boxing-show standoff is coming a little sooner than expected. Fox Broadcasting said Friday that it would move the premiere of its boxing "reality" series, "The Next Great Champ," to Sept. 7 -- a date that was to come a day before a hearing on a suit filed by rival producers seeking to knock the show off the air.

DreamWorks and Mark Burnett, producers of NBC's rival boxing show, "The Contender" with Sylvester Stallone, this week sued Fox and the "Champ" producers in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging that the Fox show violated state boxing laws in a rush to get on the air. The producers have relied heavily on an Aug. 12 memo from former California Athletic Commission Chairman Sanford L. Michelman in making their case.

NBC executives and "Contender" producers have complained for months that "Champ" rips off their show.

On Wednesday, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge denied the "Contender" side's request for a restraining order to block the Fox broadcast, but set a Sept. 8 date for a hearing on a preliminary injunction. That hearing would have taken place just two days before the scheduled premiere of "Champ."

But on Thursday evening, Fox attorneys notified the "Contender" producers of the network's scheduling switch to Sept. 7. In a statement, a Fox spokesman said the change was needed "for reasons entirely unrelated to 'The Contender' lawsuit."

Judge Lisa Hart Cole on Friday denied a request from "Contender" attorneys to block the date change, but decided to move up the injunction hearing to Aug. 27.

In a statement, a DreamWorks spokesman said "the court did the right thing" in moving up the hearing date. "It's further evidence that the court recognizes the legitimacy and significance of the criminal violations cited" in the commission memo.

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