Fishing Vessel "Time Bandit" owner/captains Andy and Jonathan Hilstrand are being sued by the Disccovery Network for jumping ship on a planned special episode of the show titled (ridiculously) "Hilstranded."
Footage had already been shot, but voice overs and interviews still needed to be done to tie all the footage together. Discovery claims that when they tried to contact the Hilstrands about scheduling a time to shoot the remaining footage, all they got back was an email from the brother's lawyer warning them not to attempt further contact.
Discovery's complains that the special episode would have generated big bucks in advertising revenue to the network and is suing the captains for $3 million for breach of contact.
"The Hillstrand Defendants determined that they would reverse course, dishonor their promises, and refuse to render the services necessary to complete 'Hillstranded,'" reads the complaint.
Needless to say, The Hilstrands' lawyer Jeff Cohen does not agree:
"The recent actions of Discovery Communications are an astonishing and shameful instance of arrogance and greed run amok. While CEO David Zaslav reaps a $33.9 million bonanza in a single day in January 2010, his company attempts to bankrupt hardworking fishermen. Three million dollars is exponentially greater than any compensation ever paid to the 'Deadliest Catch' captains, and yet this is the figure Discovery is trying to extort from these men."
"Deadliest Catch" is one of the Discovery Networks highest rated shows. This last season drew big numbers for the channel due to the sudden death of Captain Phil Harris and the episode became Discovery's third highest rated show ever. Its clear that Discovery thinks they can squeeze more out of the franchise since its popular right now, but going after the captains for not wanting to do a stupid episode is suicide. The Hilstrands would have to fire their crew and sell their boat just to be able to pay Discovery.
"There's got to be more to it because I can't imagine these guys would just back out without a good reason." said a poster to the Official Time Bandit message forum. "However, I'm not really surprised that Discovery is suing them. At the end of the day, the network is about making money and the Hillstrands are just a commodity to the people at the top. ...Three million is way beyond punitive; it's like they want to bury them. Or make an example of them."
These guys have generated millions of dollars to the network and as soon as they disagree with something the network wants, they're going to get their legs cut off? Yes this is a breach of contract, but does Discovery really want to be seen as the company that forced two well respected fishermen out of business?
Neither Andy nor Jonathan have said anything public about the lawsuit. Their latest tweets are about a fishing festival they are returning from.
Stay tuned, it looks like stormy seas ahead.