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ABC’s Lee Says ‘Modern Family’ Expected to Return on Time

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July 27 (Bloomberg) -- “Modern Family,” the ABC comedy whose cast filed a lawsuit this week seeking to void their contracts, is expected to return to the air on schedule, according to network entertainment President Paul Lee.

The Walt Disney Co.-owned TV network is negotiating with the cast, Lee said today at a television critics conference in Beverly Hills, California. The actors showed up this week for work after an earlier session was canceled, he said.

“We’re hopeful we will be able to resolve this soon,” Lee said, without offering specifics on the talks.

The lawsuit threatens the coming fourth season of “Modern Family,” the most-watched comedy among the 18-to-49-year-old viewers sought by advertisers. The show is produced by News Corp.’s Twentieth Century Fox Television and airs on ABC.

Sofia Vergara, Julie Bowen, Ty Burrell and other cast members asked a California judge to void contracts that cap their pay and bar outside work, according to a complaint filed July 24 in Los Angeles.

The actors say the contracts violate state labor law prohibiting some agreements for services lasting more than seven years, according to the filing.

The suit pits the actors against a producer they claim bars them from working elsewhere while locking them into single-digit pay raises. The success of “Modern Family,” which is central to ABC’s effort to draw viewers to new shows in September, “has been built upon a collection of illegal contracts,” the actors said.

Disney, based in Burbank, California, gained 1.3 percent percent to $50.34 at 1:35 p.m. in New York. The stock had climbed 33 percent this year as of yesterday. News Corp. rose 3.7 percent to $23.44.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andy Fixmer in Los Angeles at afixmer@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Palazzo at apalazzo@bloomberg.net

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