Universal Nods to "Strike Contingency Planning" in Getting TV Execs Out of Depositions

Mark Binke Headshot - P 2013

On Thursday, Universal Cable Productions requested and got a judge to hold off immediate depositions for two of its top cable television executives, Randi Richmond and Mark Binke. In court papers, the studio cited their pressing schedule made worse by a possible strike coming by members of the Writers Guild of America.

Universal is in the midst of a $6.9 million insurance dispute stemming from how USA Network's Dig had to move production from Israel to New Mexico in 2014 upon rocket fire from Hamas. The studio insists what happened was an act of terrorism, while Atlantic Specialty Insurance Company classifies it as an act of war. Since terrorism appears to be covered under the policy, but war is not, classification counts in this case. The parties are reviewing everything from State Department memos to how NBC news outlets treated an event where thousands died.

The insurance company want to question Richmond and Binke, both senior vice presidents of production of Universal Cable. With the clock ticking on summary judgment motions, the insurer noticed Binke's deposition for Friday and Richmond's deposition for Monday.

"The timing could not be worse," wrote Universal's lawyers in a motion for a protective order. "Several television productions are scheduled to begin shooting over the next three weeks, including the hit series Mr. Robot, and there are additional shows in production queue waiting for final approval. The Production Deposition witnesses are key production executives who are extensively involved in the intense and timing consuming work that occurs when shooting begins on a production. And, the possibility of a potential writers strike, with the WGA strike authorization vote scheduled for April 18, has caused even more turmoil. The television industry is engrossed in strike contingency planning and other efforts to work around a threatened writers’ strike."

That seems to have worked.

The judge granted the motion and told the parties to discuss dates where the executives would be made available. Chalk it up to one more way the looming strike is impacting Hollywood: local battles before foreign ones.