11:20am PT by Eriq Gardner
Televisa Sues to Prevent Rival From Poaching Mexican TV Star
Televisa, a giant in the Spanish-speaking media world, has a problem.
Last month, one of its TV stars, Kristoff, left the company for rival Estrella TV, and Televisa says it "has no one else in its roster of television personalities with the expertise and appeal to fill Kristoff's place and is unaware of any other rising stars in the industry who possess Kristoff's unique skill set, charm, and audience appeal."
For those who have never seen Telehit -- a Spanish-language pay TV network owned by Televisa -- Kristoff (born: Krzysztof Raczynski Tatomir) hosts several talks shows, including one geared to movie and music reviews and another devoted to sex talk. Or at least he did until he joined Estrella, owned by Liberman Broadcasting, and became the host of a "bloopers" show.
On Thursday, Televisa sued Liberman in U.S. District Court in California, pointing to an exclusivity provision in Kristoff's contract with Televisa, and asking a judge for a permanent injunction against the emigration of its star personality.
Televisa says it has invested substantially in Kristoff's development as a top TV host since the mid-1990s, and that his shows generate top ratings at the 3:30 and midnight time slots. Kristoff's shows are broadcast in 21 nations, including in the U.S.
In August, Kristoff allegedly got a raise that bumped up his compensation 50 percent. He was also working on a new show for Televisa. But that evidently wasn't enough to keep Kristoff from leaving. In the new lawsuit, Televisa accuses Liberman of knowingly inducing Kristoff to breach his contract.
According to the complaint, on October 12, Kristoff wrote his supervisor at Telehit that Estrella TV wanted to hire him.
Two days later, a Televisa performer reported seeing Kristoff on a flight from Los Angeles to Mexico City. Kristoff allegedly traveled to meet with Lenard Liberman.
On October 17, Kristoff's superior questioned him about his imminent departure from the company.
The next day, Kristoff gave his resignation, writing, "Beyond the legal problem I will surely have with Televisa due to the exclusivity issue...(I wish it was not so because of the amount that I am paid but I suppose whether you are a telenovla actor earning 500 thousand or you just appear on a music video channel with my salary, if you breach a contract there are consequences) I hope that we can maintain a cordial relationship because, again, you have never turned your back on me during the past six years."
In the lawsuit, Kristoff is said to have been warned of the legal consequences of leaving, but was given money by Liberman to compensate him for that "risk."
Since Kristoff's jump, the two Spanish-TV companies have continued to fight over the star. Televisa tells a judge that if an injunction isn't issued, it will be damaged by lost goodwill among audiences and advertisers, lower subscription revenue, the threat of broadcasters dropping Telehit and the undermining of the enforceability of its contracts with hundreds of other stars.
Says the lawsuit, "By illegally poaching Kristoff from his contract with Televisa, Liberman has also deprived Televisa of original programming in the niche genres (including movie and music reviews, and sex talk, among others) that are Kristoff's specialties."
E-mail: [email protected]; Twitter: @eriqgardner