Banijay’s ALP Threatens Legal Action Against Sony-Backed Satisfaction Over French Ratings Hit ‘District Z’

EXCLUSIVE: Banijay-owned ALP is threatening legal action amid concerns that its 30-year-old adventure game show Fort Boyard has been cloned by Sony joint-venture Satisfaction Group’s new French ratings hit District Z.

District Z premiered on TF1 last week and became France’s best unscripted entertainment show launch for 27 years in the key 25-49 demo, but viewers and local media immediately pointed out similarities with Fort Boyard, which broadcasts on France Télévisions. Fort Boyard presenter Olivier Minne has also drawn comparisons between the two shows.

Deadline can reveal that ALP is now sending Satisfaction a legal letter detailing its format infringement concerns. If the matter is not resolved between the two companies, we understand that ALP is prepared to take steps towards formal legal action.

Deadline hears ALP’s concerns center on the mythology behind each show, as well as specific format points. Fort Boyard, which has been adapted in 30 territories around the world, tells the story of an old rich man who lives in a sea-locked fortress and invites a team of celebrities to steal his treasure via a series of challenges. If the celebrities fail their tasks, they are taken prisoner and the team is disadvantaged in their bid to claim the treasure in the final game.

District Z, meanwhile, focuses on Professor Z, a rich scientist who lives in an isolated property. He invites a team of celebrities to steal his treasure through a series of challenges in which they risk being captured by a zombie. If they are captured, the team is disadvantaged in the final game, in which the celebrities mount their treasure raid on Professor Z’s secret vault.

As well as pointing out these similarities, ALP is also understood to have noted that a number of Fort Boyard’s crew worked on District Z. The presenter, Denis Brogniart, also works closely with ALP, having fronted the French version of Survivor, Koh-Lanta.

Sony Pictures Television, which is selling District Z internationally, has highlighted “unprecedented” shooting techniques in its sales materials, including rigged cameras on a set that is the size of 14 football fields. Sources told Deadline that a number of Banijay companies have expressed an interest in adapting the show around the world, though it is understood that no options are in place.

ALP declined to comment on its legal warning. Satisfaction and Sony also declined to comment. Sony controls 20% of Satisfaction following a joint-venture agreement struck in July, when Satisfaction acquired 100% of Sony Pictures Television France and its label Starling.

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