CBS Warns ABC Not to Air 'The Glass House' Claiming It Is Too Similar to 'Big Brother'

Categories: ABC TV ratings,CBS TV ratings,TV Business

Written By

May 4th, 2012


TVByTheNumbers readers were not the only ones who noticed a similarity between ABC's upcoming summer reality series The Glass House and CBS's long-running Big Brother. Lawyers for CBS sent a letter to ABC President Anne Sweeney warning that if ABC proceeds with the show, the network will be "acting at their own peril" and that if ABC airs The Glass House, CBS will "pursue all available remedies."

CBS's lawyers also allege in the letter that numerous former producers of Big Brother have been hired to work on The Glass House in violation of the Non Disclosure Agreements they signed with CBS. The entire letter can be found here.

How long before NBC sends FOX a similar strongly worded missive about it's upcoming dating show The Choice, which overtly parodies the hit music competition, The Voice?

  • j


  • intexor

    Unless the concept and game rules are exactly the same, they do not stand a chance of winning such a case. Funny thing: both concepts are invented by the Dutch company Endemol. The Glass House never really became a success. I don’t know how they’re going to play it in the US, but the original concept was controversial because it involved the contestants bullying the others out of the house (they had to stay in there for over 2 years originally).

  • SJ

    But isn’t Big Brother originally a British show? It’s not CBS’s property. I don’t think they have a legal leg to stand on.

  • craigcuk

    “…….TV companies rip off each others ideas……”

    Film at 11.

  • Akihironihongo

    I find this hilarious. Just saying.

  • Josh


    “What can CBS do they don’t own the Big Brother format, Endemol do they could take The Glass House producers to court. I believe similar situations have arisen in Chile and Russia in both cases Endemol won.”

    This is a different scenario here. At the time there was no local versions of Big Brother in Chile and Russia so Endemol had to sue directly. Now because CBS is the exclusive licensee here in America, Endemol can, by their contract with CBS, invoke a clause that requires CBS to protect the format.

    Japanese companies that own the international rights to various anime TV shows use this kind of authority requiring the local American company that has the local rights to sue/send C&D letters on their behalf. ADV Films/Sentai Filmworks & Funimation Entertainment do this on a regular basis and one Japanese firm had Funimation file a lawsuit against a swarm of BitTorrent users for an episode of One Piece.

    Also just because the American version uses a different set of rules doesn’t mean it isn’t a version of Big Brother. The Head of Household/Power of Veto have been featured in other versions of Big Brother after their introduction with Big Brother 2 USA.

    Big Brother Brazil has used a USA-UK hybrid format since its inception and regularly adopts the USA twists to fit the Brazilian format. In the Philippines they adopted the America’s Player twist in at two different seasons. The UK has used both the Head of Household and the Power of Veto (known in the UK as Save & Replace) at least once.

    Australia adopted a form of the Head of Household as the FNL Winner with powers similar to the Power of Veto. Germany & the Philippines are the most viewer interactive versions of Big Brother as the viewers vote on almost every aspect of the program including nominations.

    CBS has used the original format (and I am talking about the very first format from the original Dutch version, not the first UK season) and the current competition based format. However in Big Brother US viewers still play an important role in the program that proves a social game is still needed just as much as a strategy based games against each other. (Big Brother 11 Coup de Etat anyone).

    Big Brother is a very extensive format and each of the key points in the description of The Glass House has been used in at least one version of Big Brother around the world plus several of Endemol’s BB spin-off formats.

    CBS can still claim that having the viewing public vote out contestants is part of the Big Brother format since they did use it in Big Brother 1, Big Brother 8 (in the form of America’s Player.) Voting for the winner (BB1, BB8, BB11). Audience voting for the winner is still in the rule books as a backup system in case something happens to the jury as noted by Alison Grodner herself.

    If CBS wanted to they could re-introduce public voting at anytime and ABC couldn’t counter-sue because public voting is still part of Big Brother. For example CBS could have Grodner use the Brazilian format which is essentially BBUSA except with the public choosing who is evicted each week and choosing who will win.

    Out of all the arguments in the past CBS can make a solid case with this one. Now Fox with The Choice they can deem that as a parody and get by with it since the only thing in common is spinning chairs.

  • ToXiX

    Abc is a worthless network that should be getting NBC numbers.

  • Survivor Fan

    Can’t these networks stop their catfights?

    Anyway, I hope that this will just make more people watch The Glass House. There is room for both shows to florish. I will, for one, watch both this summer.

  • Survivor Fan

    Last year, did CBS:

    a) believe that there was enough of a difference between EI and TAR
    b) know that EI would fail

  • alanna

    ABC always mimic programming from other networks because there followers DUH! CBS you shouldve sued for many of other things other nets took from you guys and plus CBS you guys are CBS YOU WILL GET TEN TIMES THE VIEWERS ABC GET ON THAT SHOW!

  • hubertwentland5

    @alanna why so agressive? ;p although i’m a fan of CBS, i think they are less original in their programming (i mean, CBS has only old fashioned comedies and procedurals – that’s okay, people get what they want, no surprises). ABC tries something new – like OUaT, which isn’t their typical primetime soap.

  • Michael Giondomenico

    Musical Chairs a CBS daytime game show from the 70s that aired after Match Game 74′

  • RG-X

    Caption should read: CBS warns ABC that they’re airing the same crap.

  • Dave.A


    Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t CBS’s The Talk a complete ripoff of ABC’s The View?

  • Pat

    I’m with Kevin, the previous poster, who said you can’t copyright an idea. You can only copyright the execution of an idea. ABC can’t call its show “Big Brother” or use terms like “Power Of Veto” or “Head of Household”, but the general idea of people sequseterd and competing for money is a concept and, unfortunately, you can’t copyright a concept. If you could, Survivor would be the only show of it’s kind.

© 2015 Tribune Digital Ventures