This summer has been a good season for reality TV. Whether you Keep Up with the Kardashians, settle upon The Jersey Shore, pay a visit with the Real Housewives franchise, or try to completely avoid the fodder altogether, it is evident that reality television has grown exponentially since its inception with MTV’s The Real World. Forbes magazine’s June issue, “The New Celebrity Money Makers,” noted the successful business model of reality TV as itsstars leverage the platform to build major business empires.
What does this mean for attorneys? With the sale of Bethenny Frankel’s Skinnygirl brand for $120 million, the Kardashians raking in $65 million in 2010, and Jersey Shore’s The Situation bringing $5 million in endorsement deals, not including the additional $1 million “nonendorsement” deal from Abercrombie & Fitch, television network attorneys are scrambling to insert contract clauses in talent deals to ensure a stake in any business venture created out of the talents’ time on the TV shows.
The attorneys for the reality stars also have kept busy helping them protect their brands: Kim Kardashian’s counsel recently filed a lawsuit against Old Navy for unfair competition and violations of publicity rights after the company ran an ad featuring an actress whose look hewed, the plaintiffs say, too closely to that of Kardashian. There’s online legal analysis arguing the lawsuit may be an attempt to protect Kardashian’s recent apparel licensing deal with Sears.