NEW YORK, Nov. 6 (Reuters) - CBS Broadcasting sued rival network ABC Wednesday alleging that its planned reality television series "I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here" illegally copies CBS' popular Survivor show.
The suit, filed in Manhattan federal court, seeks unspecified damages and a court order stopping ABC from airing the show in the United States. Defendants in the suit are ABC, Granada Plc and Granada Entertainment USA. CBS is a unit of Viacom and ABC is a unit of Walt Disney Co.
In September, ABC and Granada announced an agreement to produce the series called "I'm a Celebrity...Get Me out of Here." The lawsuit alleges that Celebrity, which was broadcast in the United Kingdom in August, directly copies the "format, look and feel" of Survivor.
"We have not yet seen the complaint, so we can't comment," said ABC spokeswoman Julie Hoover.
The suit states that ABC and Granada have an agreement that Granada will develop and produce 15 episodes of Celebrity for exclusive broadcast by ABC in the United States. It alleges that ABC has scheduled Celebrity for broadcast during the February 2003 ratings sweeps period.
"Celebrity was consciously designed to mimic Survivor and unfairly trade on its success," the suit alleged. "Like Survivor, Celebrity strands a group of participants in a remote and inhospitable location...where the participants are forced to subsist on rice and water (just as in Survivor) and compete in a series of physical and mental challenges (just as in Survivor)."
It states that the climax of each Celebrity episode -- just as in Survivor -- is an elimination ceremony where the hosts of the show dramatically announce which participant has been voted out, followed by an interview with the excluded person.
The suit states that the English Celebrity took place in the Australian Outback, the same setting used in the second Survivor cycle.
CBS said the British news media recognized the similarities of the two shows and referred to the Granada production as the "Celebrity Survivor."
The suit states that on September 25, shortly after the defendants announced their agreement to broadcast Celebrity in the United States, CBS contacted ABC and Granada demanding that they drop their plans. Neither has agreed to do so, the suit said.
In September, Castaway Productions Ltd, which owns the British rights to Survivor, also began litigation in the United Kingdom against Granada alleging copyright infringement.